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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Election
Election
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 4, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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I never saw "Election" when it was in its theatrical release, but right before it was released, I had the chance to read the novel, by Tom Perrotta. I found it oddly structured, with not terribly likable characters, but definitely full of smart, honest observations about high school life. Still, I found it a quick read and not terribly memorable. I was interested though, in how the director of "Citizen Ruth", a picture that I found fascinating, would work with this material.

I may not have found the material similar to my high school experience, but I love what the actors and director have done with the novel. The story revolves around the continual unspoken anger between teacher Mr. McCallister and a young student named Tracy Flick(played outstandingly by Reese Witherspoon, taking this character and running wild with it). When a teacher(who is also a good friend of McCallister) has an affair with Tracy and finds himself out of a job, the unspoken anger begins to reveal itself with disasterous results.

When Tracy finds herself running for class president alone, Mr. McCallister pulls an already sidelined football star from the fields and has him run against Tracy, giving the student body "a choice", but in reality, finding a way to get back at her. When Tracy finds out, she declares war. What could have been a fairly interesting role becomes fascinating as Witherspoon brings such a wonderful fury to the role. To top things off, Paul's sister decides to run, promoting the fact that she would take apart student government.

The film is full of great performances: Broderick is excellent as the teacher who wants to topple Tracy's chances at the election, but is otherwise a gentlemen; Reese Witherspoon has her best performance as a know-it-all with near-meltdown intensity, a great second performance this year after her other solid performance in Cruel Intentions. Paul Klein is also quite good as the football player chosen to run(he was also in this year's American Pie.)

Technically the film is great as well: Payne uses freeze-frames and voice-overs to a wonderful effect throughout the picture. The film at times becomes surreal and well, so does high school. The cinematography work by James Glennon is excellent. The film is shot in the 2.35:1 wide ratio and I think it's always a great choice to try and do a character-driven film in this ratio. It gives conversations a more interesting framing and it adds a more open feeling to the proceedings. It worked similarly well in Rushmore and it works well again here.



The DVD

VIDEO: "Election" is really a quite good anamorphic transfer from Paramount, bringing home the great cinematography of James Glennon. The image is letterboxed in the 2.35:1 ratio and it consisently captures the grey Ohmaha skies or the vast, open hallways of the high school. Images are sharp and contain fine detail throughout. Colors are captured naturally, from the sort of "cold morning" feel of the outdoor scenes to the colors of the kids clothes walking the halls. Colors of the clothes stand out nicely against the sort of bland, pale walls of the school. Contrast is fine and flesh tones are natural and accurate.

There are a few very short, very slight problems with shimmering that are not very noticable. Other than that, Paramount has done another fine job with their transfer of "Election".

SOUND: "Election" is mainly dialogue, but like many similar smaller films, there are some nice touches. The fun score by Rolfe Kent is captured with clarity and sounds warm and full. Occasionally, things do "open up", such as with the cheers of a crowd of students. Dialogue sounds very good here, full and clear throughout the picture and never sounding thin. A basic dialogue-driven track with occasional subtle, pleasant suprises.

MENUS: Again, the basic Paramount menus taken from the cover art. Nothing animated.

EXTRAS::
Commentary: I generally have at least some good things to say about almost any commentary, but the best thing I can say about director Alexander Payne's commentary here is that I thought it was average. Occasionally, I found what he had to say quite interesting, such as how he and his assistant directors watched the ways that the kids walked the halls between periods and how they recreated that in the film. He also talks frequently about associating Broderick's character with "circles", since his life is going in a circle throughout. There is also quite a bit of discussion about how many of the shots were framed, and the thinking behind how they were composed. The director also points out a few places in Ohmaha, where he also grew up.

Also mentioned is what is was like to work with the various actors and the sort of themes and concepts that go into the movie as well as some of the symbols shown. There are quite a few small pauses throughout the commentary. I generally enjoyed the stories that Payne had to tell and it's not a "bad" commentary by any means(I've heard far worse), but it's not one that I found really memorable. I am glad to see that Paramount is finally adding extras like a commentary(although suddenly, there's no trailer anymore, which is a bummer!).

Trailer: Strangely, the trailer isn't included here. Nor is it included on this week's other Paramount Matt Broderick DVD release, "Ferris Buller's Day Off", which also has a commentary.

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