Liberty at the Movies: Election

Hard as it may seem to believe, the sharpest, most intelligent political satire of recent times deals with a race for high school student body President. I am talking about 1999's Election, which is perfect pre-or-post election viewing.

The film tells the story of Tracy Fleck, a high school junior whose defining characteristics are ambition and sense of entitlement to power. A voice over monologue grants the audience access to Tracy's inner thoughts.

Tracy's inner monologue shows that, contrary to the image of a sweet girl who only wants to help her fellow students, she is a power-mad narcissists who only cares about satisfying her own ambition. In other words, a natural politician.

In her campaign speech Tracy says "When you vote for me, you're voting for yourself," a line so vapid that it could have come from one of DC's high-priced consultants. But Tracy delivers it with such sincerity that everyone falls for it.

We see Tracy praying the night before the election, asking God for victory because she deserves it.

Tracy's seemingly smooth path to high school power faces two roadblocks:  1. Jim McAllister, a history teacher and student government adviser. McAllister not only despises Tracy, he believes that he must stop her for the good of humanity and 2. Paul Metzler, the popular quarterback McAllister recruits to run against Tracy.

Unlike Tracy, Paul is genuinely interested in improving the lives of his fellow students. And unlike Mr. McAllister, he harbors no ulterior motive and is blissfully unaware that he is a pawn in McAllister's plot to deny Tracy victory.

A third candidate in the race is Paul's sister Tammy, who runs to spite Paul. Tammy provides one of the highlights of the movie with her pre-election speech where she declares that as President she will do nothing except abolish student government to end these stupid rallies because who care about this stupid election.

She has my vote!

Or would if the high school administration had not found a way to remove her from the ballot.

I won't spoil the ending, except to say it involves voter fraud uncovered by a vengeful janitor (you really need to see this movie).

The film benefits from several strong performances, including Mathew Broaderick as Mr. McAllister Paul Klein as Paul, and Jessica Campbell as Tammy.

But what makes this movie is Reese Witherspoon's Golden Globe, American Comedy Award, National Critics Association (and several others) award-nominated performance as Tracy Fleck. Witherspoon perfectly captures the overly ambitious politico who may seem well-intentioned but in fact is only driven by ambitions.

Election is Barrack Obama's favorite political movie, but don't let that keep you away form enjoying this wonderful piece of political satire.

Here is the greatest campaign speech in cinematic history.




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