Matthew Broderick makes up for years of wet-noodle performances with his low-key but unsparing characterisation of Jim McAllister, a high-school teacher at George Washington Carver High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Driven by a strange mixture of loathing and lust for pathologically overachieving student Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), McAllister encourages a dim but popular athlete, Paul (Chris Klein from American Pie
), to run against her in the election for student-council president. Director/co-writer Alexander Payne (Citizen Ruth
) turns this deceptively simple premise into a complex and scathing comedy of ambition, corruption and desire, all at its most naked and petty. Every scene contains some painfully funny nuance that will make you wince in a mixture of astonishment and empathy. Witherspoon flips effortlessly back and forth from adolescent vulnerability to steely-eyed strength; she is becoming a contemporary Carole Lombard. The movie itself feels like a magnificent throwback to the richly layered comedies of the 1930s, which drew their humour from sharply drawn characters and twisting plots instead of explosions of bodily fluids. With a wealth of smart, cutting details, Election
rewards multiple viewing. --Bret Fetzer
Merciless social satire starring Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick, a Straight A pupil who is determined to become student president of Carver High School. Her teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) feels that democracy would best be served if she faced some opposition, and convinces popular but dumb sporting hero Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) to run against her. However, thanks to this intervention, and to Tracy's boundless ambition, the election soon turns into a high school nightmare. The script, adapted from Tom Perrotta's novel, was nominated for an Oscar.