A competent, ambitious, and some-might-say-chilly blonde who thinks she’s got this election in the bag goes up against unlikely opponents who are unqualified and uninformed, but hold an anarchic appeal to a certain deplorable fan base that’s fed up with the establishment. When the rubble is cleared, some careers will be ruined, some hearts will be broken, and one very controversial woman will rise to power, sweeping aside a few questionable tactics along the way.
Oh, and did we forget to mention the myriad sex scandals?
In our third episode, the When We Were Young podcast tackles Alexander Payne’s 1999 film Election, a high school satire that has absolutely zero relevance to anything going on in the American political system today. Listen here or subscribe here.
Election was released on April 23, 1999, just a few days after the Columbine massacre, which might be the reason audience weren’t in the mood for a dark and biting high school satire. The film grossed only $14.9 million on a $25 million production budget (which seems strangely high for a low-key high school comedy), though it did sweep the Independent Spirit Awards, winning awards for its screenplay, direction, and Best Feature, and also received an Oscar nod for its script by Jim Taylor and Payne.
Here’s the range of what critics said at the time of release:
Desson Thompson, The Washington Post: “The satire of the season, a hilarious, razor-sharp indictment of the American Dream.”
Christopher Brandon, TNT RoughCut: “Dumb, dumb, dumb.”
(I question the validity of a critic working for TNT RoughCut who thinks this movie is “dumb,” but it was one of few bad reviews I could find.)Election has held up well over the years, especially for introducing Reese Witherspoon as an actress with serious dramatic and comedic chops. Prior to Election, she was one of a slew of actresses in teen films who could be forgotten in five years, but the role of Tracy Flick cemented her as a real leading lady, showing she could pick smarter-than-average material and rise to the occasion in carrying it.
I appreciated Election when I saw it on home video at the time, but I’ve come to appreciate it more and more in subsequent viewings, and especially now that we’re seeing so much of it come to life with our first serious female candidate for the nation’s highest office.
In the podcast, we discuss the complex sexual politics of the film, how it compares to our current national nightmare of an election cycle, and find ourselves divided on how much we like and admire Miss Tracy Flick (which may or may not line up pretty nicely with how we feel about Hillary Clinton). Give it a spin, and if you like what you hear, please leave us a review (5 stars would be nice!) or pledge $1 to help us defray costs of producing the show.