Thursday, July 30, 2009

Election (1999)

By Eric Jessen 7/29/09

One dreary morning at the beginning of my junior year, I reluctantly packed into a crowded auditorium to hear the obligatory speeches of the student body president candidates. I was forced to listen to microphone cracklings, “Is it on? It's on, okay.” and the incoherent ramblings of the “padding their resume, over achiever of the year” hopefuls. I sat, swarmed by blackberries and iphones, unable to breathe in the Axe Body Spray filled air, slumped over resting my head on my fist trying to catch a few extra z's. I looked up and noticed out of the corner of my eye a kid step to the podium who didn't fit my stereotype of candidates. Apparently he had previously been appointed to the student council and was running unopposed. He was little known but quick-witted with pent-up bitterness. Grabbing the microphone with confidence and an “I don't care” attitude, the kid described in detail how meaningless it is to be a student president, vice-president, counsel member and how my vote was pointless and that I “might as well not vote”. Of course the crowd of cynics, mad at their mommies and daddies (or something), hormones pumping through their blood stream, applauded, laughed and gave their hero a standing ovation. Then it was the presidential candidates' turn: the hyper workaholic, talkative, know-it-all girl, the football player who gets cheerleader cheers at the beginning of his speech and sympathy cheers after he mumbles, shivers and holds the microphone too close to his mouth at the end, and then finally a speech by a smoker kid, running after what started as a joke amongst friends, seeming a redundant copy-cat in his rebellious tone.
I don't remember who I voted for, or if I voted, and I don't remember who won. But oh, how I love to reminisce. Election includes all my favorite cast of characters (the over achiever, the rebel, the jock) and understands how they act, rarely relying on teen-movie conventions (only one too many bj's). We are spared from the silly relationships, drunken parties, and stupid parents.
Election paints a cynical, glossy portrait of real schools. The teachers, including everyone's buddy, Jim McAllister (Mathew Broderick), come to school wearing their personal lives, crumbling marriages, and affairs on their sleeves. When the overly perky, c. b. (fans of House know what I mean) Tracy Flick (Reece Witherspoon, fantastic and delectably snotty) gets in an argument with a teacher, she threatens to call her lawyer mother. If the ambitious Flick loses the election, you can expect a flood of tears. The dim witted, former football player candidate, Paul (Chris Klein), who thanks god for his truck “and what I've been told is a big penis” will undoubtedly, out of the good of his heart, vote for Flick. An angry sophomore girl who we first meet in her room as she's kissing another girl will run for president for revenge, after her girlfriend dumped her in favor of her brother, the football player. When she gives her speech, she panders to the rebellious teen audience saying, “I'll destroy student government,” and voting is “stupid.” As a result, she gets suspended for three days, and although she says, “It's not like I'm a lesbian or anything. I'm attracted to the person. But it's just that all the people that I've ever been attracted to have been girls,” she will spend all of what she calls “paid vacation” watching the girls soccer team.
Though I'm not far removed from my junior year, Election is still spiffy, well groomed cliché, Hollywood laminated nostalgia: high school consisting only of attractive, 25 year old actors but with sharp satire and non-stop laughs.

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