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Edinburgh Festival 99 Wednesday, 18 August, 1999, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
Vote for Election
By BBC News Online's Festival correspondent Matt Grant

Election

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon
Edinburgh International Film Festival

Election is being touted as a post-Lewinsky political comedy. Since elected representatives are now viewed as having all the moral restraint of teenagers, director Alexander Payne chooses a high school as his setting.

Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick star in Election
The film parodies the style of many cliched American movies, but the result is funnier and sassier than any genre flick.

Well-meaning teacher Jim McAllister, played by Matthew Broderick, is the focal point for the audience, but Payne allows all the main characters to pick up the voice-over commentary at different times.

Reese Witherspoon perfectly captures the brattish overachieving student spurred on by her mother's obsessions and desires. As Tracy Flick, she sees winning the presidency of the school's student government as her divine right and is willing to do anything when she is challenged.

Mr McAllister has already seen his best friend and colleague forced to leave town because of an affair with Flick. The secondary plot revolves around the growing lust between the teacher and the wife of his former colleague.

Edinburgh Festival 1999
This develops in tandem with his loathing for the precocious Flick. As his personal life spins out of control, he destroys some of her ballot papers to stop her winning the election.

Although a thoroughly despicable character, the look on the girl's face when she thinks she has lost is both hilarious and pitiful. It is also a look you can imagine seeing flash briefly onto Hillary Clinton's features next year, if she fails to win the seat she believes is rightly hers in the US Senate.

Broderick as teacher Jim McAllister: Causing scandal
The film is ultimately more of a light-hearted comedy than serious political satire, but it does provide some reflection. The most popular candidate is a rebel who promises to abolish the student government if she is elected because it never changes anything. She is banned from standing and becomes even more disaffected.

Set in Omaha, Nebraska, where Payne lives, the film ends with the two main characters leaving. The teacher is forced out of town amid the scandal over the electoral fraud. In the closing scene, he happens to see Flick during a visit to Washington DC when she drives past in a senatorial limousine.

But Payne says he wants to carry on exploring the mindset of the mid-west. He achieves that, but Election's appeal will travel far farther.

See also:

17 Aug 99 | Edinburgh Festival 99
17 Aug 99 | Edinburgh Festival 99
17 Aug 99 | Edinburgh Festival 99
19 Aug 99 | Edinburgh Festival 99
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