Sept. 6, 2000
I just caught Election
on HBO for the second time, not because its all that good, but
to confirm my initial impressions of what I thought was wrong with it.
I think its almost a good movie with an oddly provocative setting
-- a high school election -- that seems for a while like its actually
got a theme and a point, but ultimately does not have either one.
A government teacher (nicely played by Matthew Broderick) in a Nebraska high school doesnt like the overly ambitious girl (Reese Witherspoon who is perfect) thats running unopposed for school president and decides to meddle by encouraging another student to run against her. When the second student, a popular jock, declares his candidacy, so does his weird, budding lesbian sister. Now its a three-way race. All right. Thats a good act one thats clearly going somewhere.
Act two is the election which ends with the teacher meddling even further when the results dont come out the way he wants. Within this act is a major sub-plot of the teacher starting an affair with a friends wife that really hasnt got a damn thing to do with anything and is mean-spirited, too. Although all of the teachers actions have plenty of moral and ethical ramifications, none of them are explored.
Here is a guy who teaches government and civics (which I dont believe is taught anywhere anymore, not even in Nebraska) that intentionally subverts the electoral process because he simply doesnt like the girl who seems like shell win. Thats a good set-up. To have the teacher
Instead the former teacher, now a docent at a museum in Washington D. C., throws a cup of coffee at the car Reese Witherspoon is in, which, I must say, seemed really lame.
What if instead the teacher got away with it? What if the whole process can be subverted for your own personal reasons, then you have to go back and teach what a good system it is? At least thats somewhat ironic.
There are also several moments in this film that I found to be in plain old bad taste. This is what modern-day writers fall back on when they are attempting to be provocative and dont know what theyre doing. There is a world of difference between being provocative and being shocking. To be provocative you must make people think, which means you have an issue; being shocking is fairly meaningless because it has no resonance and its easy to do -- cut to a close-up of a squashed animal in the road, thats shocking. But if you want to make me think, then youd better be thinking, too.
Because Election lacks a theme and a point, it automatically lacks any real irony, and I found that a little upsetting because it seemed like a richly ironic situation. It has been said that Americans dont understand irony and cant write it, and Election is proof of that theory.
What we are left with is two-thirds of an interesting movie that fizzles into utter pointless nothingness in its final third. Still, thats more than we usually get these days. It also goes to show that something as simple as a high school election can be a provocative, ironic setting, providing, of course, that one knows what to do with it.
BECKERFILMS SITE MENU
[ Main ] [ Film & TV Work ] [ Screenplays ] [ Old Stuff ]
[ Reviews ] [ Articles, Essays & Stories ] [ Ask the Director ]
[ Favorite Films ] [ Scrapbook ] [ Links (& Afterword) ] [ Web Team ]
site is the property of Josh Becker
Copyright © 2003 Panoramic Pictures, All Rights Reserved.