On iPlayer: Election

Don’t tell Brenda from Bristol, but Election is on iPlayer.

Alexander Payne’s 1999 comedy explores high school teacher Jim McAllister’s (Matthew Broderick) meddling in a student body election after his best friend and fellow teacher is fired for having an affair with unopposed candidate Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon). This Pollita premise has more than an air of misogyny, since positioning McAllister as the protagonist makes Flick if not a villain then certainly an antagonist; a jarring decision since her only crime is being aggressively chirpy, whereas he’s entirely motivated by a combination of revenge and lust. They should have called it Robert Mueller’s Day Off.

Perhaps Payne thought this pathetic male lead lent the movie a certain Coen brothers or Woody Allen angle (more the latter in terms of its sexual politics) but making Flick the protagonist would be much more interesting and forward-thinking. He seems too forgiving of McAllister, reserving sympathy for him at the expense of Flick and ultimately doing Witherspoon’s perfectly pitched performance a disservice. His writing is droll, characters enjoyable and plotting brisk, but he pulls too many punches and renders Election a serviceable satire in need of a little more interference.

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