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Most movies engage their audiences by making them
"care" about character(s). This one does not. There is no one to like. As a
matter of fact, the movie treats everyone in it with an equal amount of contempt. That
leaves only the movie itself to like, which, in this case, is slim pickings.
The San Francisco Chronicle
categorizes Election as a "black comedy." It is anything but. More
accurately, it is a tepid, satirical farce, using gratuitous sex, vulgarity, and gross-out
humor as a crutch to bolster its otherwise meager supply of originality and content. Yes
(sigh), like Rushmore, this is another smug, smarmy off-kilter look at the
world-at-large through the distorting lens of high school. But the world of high school
offers only a limited range of possibilities, excludes extremes, is inherently safe,
sheltered, and stultifyingly respectable.
Everything about Election is
as mediocre, middle-of-the-road, and bland as its topic. It has been skillfully designed
to be just outrageous enough to draw the disaffected young into the theater, but avoids
truly challenging their assumptions and social mores (the task of true satire) in order to
assure a profit. Successful business ventures and satire are not compatible; American film
always opts for the road paved with dollars, not for the thorny path of discovery.
Specifically: The look of the movie
is dull, like a TV sitcom, not even up to the level of a made-for-TV movie. Many scenes
are poorly lit. There is no photography to speak of; there is visual famine.
The acting is competent but the
characters are just fleshed-out cliches: the nerdy teacher, the over-ambitious nerd, the
dull-witted good-fellow jock. Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion was funnier
and warmer in dealing with the same ilk. Neither, however, is half as good as The
The movie over-uses voiceovers,
which distract rather than add to the drama, depicting in dull words what should be
dramatized on screen.
Election indulges in reverse
gender prejudice (as in "reverse racism"). Homosexuality, in this case
lesbianism, is depicted as the only really liberated and honest alternative to an
otherwise phony straight society. Don't buy it; it's simplistic and untrue, just a glib
fad of the times.
There always has to be something
"at stake" in any narrative fictive work, regardless of medium. There has to be
something left hanging in the balance, something to be gained or lost. Here there is
little to nothing, just a blunted, predictable, weak feint at satire, so weak as to be
- Allan Marcus