Plot: What’s it about?
Being the wonderful and nice person I am (I apologize for the arrogance), I’ll spare all of you on any pointless and redudant United States presidential election jokes for this review (start celebrating). While the presidential election and this movie have their vote counting, “Election” is a fun, witty and smart satire on a lot of things today in society.
Jim McAllister is Carver High School’s beloved U.S. history teacher. He’s well respected by his students and faculty, and even holds the record for the most “Teacher of the Year” wins at Carver. However, his life slowly begins to crash down and become more and more hectic when Tracy Flick, a lonely overachiever decides to run for student council president at Carver High. McAllister is extremely bothered by Tracy’s annoying overachieving, and he decides to give her a run for her money by convincing Paul, a popular ex-jock (he hurt himself bad in a skiing accident) to run against her. While Paul is a sweet and decent guy, he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Now that Tracy’s chances of an automatic win are destroyed, she becomes more and more intense. Things get even crazier, when Paul’s lesbian sister Tammy decides to run for president, in an attempt to get revenge on her “true love”. There are a few other plot points and things which transpire which I have not discussed, but I won’t reveal them because they do end up giving too much of the film away. All that I can say is that things get funnier and funnier and crazier and crazier.
I saw “Election” in the theaters, and I enjoyed every moment of it. I’ve seen the movie a few times now, and every time I watch it, I seem to enjoy it more and more. The film is really well executed and really entertaining, I really like the whole narrative style from which the movie is told, where we get many different perspectives from the main characters. There are also a lot of funny moments in this movie, and some really witty lines that will bring a smile to your face.
I don’t think this film has anything bad to say about it, nearly everything is flawless. Alexander Payne (“Citizen Ruth”) directed this film, and his skills are masterful. His technqiues and shots on screen are really well done and are appreciated more because one would think that there is not much to do when a good majority of the scenes take place in a high school. I really like how he sets the film up and takes you through it. It never gets dull, and the satire keeps going on and on. The script, which he co-wrote with Jim Taylor (based on Tom Perrota’s novel), is really sharp and well planned out. Again, there are some great lines and great moments in the film (such as when the candidates present their speeches).
Still, what I loved most about the movie were the perfomances. While Reese Whitherspoon scored a Golden Globe nod for her work as Tracy, I think this has been Matthew Broderick’s best role in years. Broderick as McAllister is so perfect. All the actors have great chemistry and play off well against one another. Chris Klein is also great as the dopey Paul. Just some fantastic performances, and like many, I was disappointed that they as well as the film were snubbed for some major awards. Oh well, it did pick up a few Independent Spirit Awards.
I’m sure all of us know or have known a person (or people) like Tracy Flick. I’ve known plenty of them. People who don’t have any fun in life and just work for their own benefit, and never stop to notice the simple things, things that make life a lot more enjoyable. While it’s pretty evident in the film that Tracy wants to be big and does what she does for college and personal gain, some people (like Tracy) fail to realize is that school is only a small part of your life, while those same people think grades and what college you go to define everything, which isn’t really the case. Some who go to Ivy-League schools become nothing, while others who don’t go to a big as or good as college become huge (or perhaps drop out of high school – but for the kiddies, I recommend you go to college).
The other themes and messages the film tackles on are great. The irony of Mr. McAllister is that he teaches about morals, while in a few situations cruical to the plot, he doesn’t have any at all. There’s a lot of good commentary on things that seem important to us today in this movie, so if you like a great satire and that is really well made, “Election” deserves a spot in your collection.
Video: How does it look?
I was pretty disappointed with this transfer, it’s not up to Paramount’s usual top-notch standard, and I felt such a critically praised movie deserved some extra care. Probably the most annoying thing in this transfer are the countless debris particles and scratches that pop up. The first chapter of the film looks dreadful, but it does clear up a little after that, but there still is a good amount of the grain and dirt. What also disappointed me how this transfer doesn’t have the “sharpness” that most Paramount discs tend to have. Images at points do appear soft, and at other points colors are murky and not well saturated. While I’m at it, there are some artifacts that are distracting now and then. On the positive though, the extra resolution in this anamorphic transfer (presented in 2.35:1) does help a little, and there are some scenes where colors . Still, it seems like there was no effort in this transfer, like they took any ol’ print and just put it on the DVD.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby Digital 5.1 was a lot better than I expected. This movie is not an action movie and is really about dialogue, so surrounds aren’t that plentiful. When they are though, they sound pretty good. The cheers during the speeches are nice and loud, and when McCallister has a run-in with a bee. Music usually gives all the channels a boost though. Not bad at all… if you have a decent sound set-up, you won’t be disappointed. English Dolby Surround is also included, and there are English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
More recently, Paramount has been stocking their discs with a lot m ore additional features. In the past however, you’d be lucky if you got a single featurette. What tends to bother me though is that sometimes they “cancel out”. If they have a good feature besides a theatrical trailer, they’ll sometimes leave the trailer out and just put on the other feature (it’s not all the time… but there are a good amount of releases that have existing trailers but aren’t on the disc. I don’t understand why they leave it out but what the heck). “Election”, an earlier Paramount disc, only features a commentary with director and co-writer Alexander Payne. I did see a trailer for this movie several times, and alas, it’s not on the disc. However, Payne’s commentary is welcome. There are some pauses now and then, but I was very intrigued by his comments. Payne did win a good number of awards and nods for the film and a lot of critics praised it, but I was curious on what Payne had to say on certain story aspects and certain shots used in the film. Thankfully, he talked about the script and shots in “Election” and answered nearly everything I wanted to know about the film. Payne is relaxed and very informative, this is an excellent track that all fans of the movie should listen to. Truly one of the better tracks I’ve heard in the past few months.
While the transfer is really disappointing, the sound is good for what it is and Payne’s commentary is a nice supplement for a wonderful film. If you’ve never seen the film, I highly suggest you check it out. I think it’s one of the funniest comedies and one of the best satires that has emerged out of Hollywood in the past few years.