One of the most brilliant comedies of the last 25 years, “Election” is the kind of film Stanley Kubrick would have made had he ever made a high school comedy. However, as many other terrific films (“Citizen Ruth,” “About Schmidt,” “Sideways”) have confirmed, Alexander Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor are in a class by themselves.
The central plot centers around a high school election, but is actually a very dark satire of American politics in general. What’s so great about “Election” is how you can’t trust anyone in this film. With the notable exceptions of Chris Klein’s character Paul and his sister Tammy (played by Jessica Campbell), almost all of the characters are unreliable narrators. The way Payne juxtaposes each character’s narration with how their character actually behaves is consistently hilarious and unnerving.
With the exception of her role in 1996’s “Freeway,” Reese Witherspoon’s characterization of the ruthless Tracy Flick is her absolute finest acting performance. The film also contains Matthew Broderick’s all-time best acting performance as the high school history teacher in charge of running the election. He is the ultimate unreliable narrator of this film and his portrayal of a teacher in his late 30s who is secretly bitter about his fate while his students move on and move up is exceptional.
Easily the best film MTV ever slapped their logo onto.