Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pick Flick... or not

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I think Election, the Alexander Payne-directed movie with Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon -- is one of the finest American comedies ever made. It is both hilarious and devastating, a biting look at high school politics and, more broadly, the American Dream itself. Indeed, it it a truly exceptional movie about politics, with the main storyline following the election of student council president at a high school in Nebraska -- and yet it is about so much more than that.

I would contend that Robert Altman's Nashville is the best film (or one of the best -- there's The Godfather, after all) ever made about America, but Election captures the essential American obsession with getting ahead, the emphasis on realization of personal ambition, brilliantly, It may be set in a high school, and it may be about a largely pointless high school election, and it may be a comedy (and, like most comedies, not taken seriously), but it is, in my view, essential viewing worthy of many repeat viewings. And it's also eminently quotable.

I don't want to give too much away, but the film focuses on the efforts of one Tracy Flick (Witherspoon) to win the presidency and, ultimately, the efforts of her social studies teacher, Jim McAlliser (Broderick) to stop her. Tracy represents everything Jim loathes, everything Jim is not. She is a young woman of unrelenting ambition, an overachiever without much of a conscience, an aggressive self-promoter, an insecure yet conniving egotist. (The other storylines, all tied into this one, are fantastic, too.)

Is she like Hillary Clinton, a younger version? No, that would be unfair. Still, the video below -- "Hillary's Inner Tracy Flick," from Slate V -- is extremely funny, especially if you know the movie. Watch it... and then go watch Election. You'll love it.

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