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  • Dir. Alexander Payne
  • USA
  • 1999
  • 103 min.
  • R
  • 4K DCP
  • Assistive Listening
  • Hearing Loop

Part of 1999

In adapting Tom Perotta’s novel for the screen, Alexander Payne took a democratic approach to its characters, giving us the best and worst of each. Perspectives on these students and teachers shift and evolve as well, serving as both indictment and rehabilitation, often at the same time. This is a complicated film, one that manages to shift its impact on each viewing — an apt representation for American politics, but also a resolute testament to our own abilities to condemn and forgive. The specifics of an American high school student council election serve as the foundation of the political self, and 25 years on this film still inspires the most heated of post-screening conversations.

“A tart study in teacher-student relations, adolescent pecking orders and the nasty vicissitudes of living in a world of haves and have-nots. It's also wickedly funny, an ode to youthful overachievers…. Director Payne doesn't allow you to smugly laugh at his characters; he's going to make you walk a mile in their perfectly polished penny loafers first.  —Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon (Apr 28, 1999)

“A hilarious, razor-sharp indictment of the American Dream…. In the tradition of such all-American sendups as NASHVILLE and SMILE, ELECTION probes the internecine politics swirling around a closed world to better diagnose the societal maladies beyond its walls.” —Desson Thomson, Washington Post (May 7, 1999)

“American satire rarely comes more winning than ELECTION, an exuberantly caustic comedy that shows the symbiotic relationship between political go-get-’em-ism and moral backsliding…. Alexander Payne has a Preston Sturges-like gift for going against the grain of his own cynicism, so that the movie fairly drips with irony without ever losing its raffish energy or its sense of wonder. It feels miraculously fresh.” —David Edelstein, Slate Magazine (Apr 25, 1999)