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Election - Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein, Alexander Payne

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is a popular teacher and student government adviser who loves making a difference in his students' lives. He's been named teacher of the year three times during his 12 years at George Washington Carver High, but he's about to put it all on the line - his reputation, his career - for a student election.

Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is the school's consummate overachiever, an alarmingly ambitious go-getter who treats high school as the first step in a lifelong career strategy. Busy with clubs, committees and school musicals, she is ready for her greatest glory - the student government presidency.

Getting elected should be a snap, since no-one is running against her - no-one, that is, until Jim decides that this human achievement machine must be stopped and recruits his own candidate for president, Paul Metzler (Chris Klein). A sidelined football hero whose enormous popularity threatens Tracy's chances, Paul is charmingly dim-witted and stupendously unfit for the job. The two-person contest gains another combatant when Paul's alienated younger sister, Tammy (Jessica Campbell), joins the race as an insurgent candidate who builds massive support for her crusade to abolish student government altogether. As campaign fever sets in, the lines between right and wrong grow increasingly blurry and Jim's life, both in school and out, begins to spin out of control in this satirical comedy that takes an uncommon look at ambition, morality, desire, love and the lies we never cease telling ourselves.

Based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, which was inspired by two events: the 1992 USA presidential election campaign, and an incident where a conservative high school principal in the south invalidated a prom queen election because the winner was pregnant.

"The principal told the student body that there would be no prom queen that year because ballots had been accidentally damaged, but he later admitted to burning them," explains Tom. "I was disturbed by this tampering of a basic democratic process because I believe any election, however seemingly insignificant, involves principles that are worth valuing."

He also found the 1992 election intriguing because of third-party candidate Ross Perot, a wild card who gained attention by attacking the entire system as fraudulent. His campaign - though at times appearing to be extreme - was exhilarating to Perrotta, who evoked a similar outsider, third-party candidacy with the character of Tammy.

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Hmmm, a strange one, and that means something, coming from me.

The thing about Election is that it is set in a high school, but isn't a high school flick. (cf. Jawbreaker) it's an adult flick, set in a high school, with a lot of teen high school sensibilities. What I am implying is that this is a film for grown-ups, so that they can look back on their own high school years (even if they didn't go to Ronald Reagan High) while knowing now what they didn't know then.

Reese is an incredibly perky annoying cow, who, despite the seeming 2 dimensionality of the character, still manages to affect you. Matthew is a delusional middle class jerk: the type of teacher who really thinks that they can make a difference and really cares about their students. The aforementioned students even have a nickname for him (Mister M) which they call to his face. Now even my school had one of those (yes, there were high schools in those days).

Chris and Tammy, both making their first appearance on the big screen, are very typically teen, but with a depth of character that makes a rewarding change. sure, Paul Metzler is a "laugh at" rather than "laugh with" character, but he's still a human being despite that.

There's plenty of humour (and I mean humour that is actually funny - in an American film - scary!) but Election is really a drama. It's about life and lives and the living thereof.

If nothing else, it's worth seeing to find out what happened to Matthew after Godzilla!

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Medium level sex scenes, medium level coarse language)

Surveillance time

103 minutes (1:43 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 6 October 2000

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