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Election (1999) Print E-mail
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Image“Election” is perhaps one of the most disturbing comedies I have seen in my life.  The way in which it is marketed, audiences usually hear the name and think, “aw, a nice and light Reese Witherspoon comedy.”  Wrong.  The plot and characters are devious, sometimes making your stomach churn.  Don’t get me wrong, this film is one of the best at the turn of the millennium.

The film only grossed about $15 million in the US at the box office, making it an undiscovered gem for most viewers out there.  Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick turn out stellar performances.   Writer/Director Alexander Payne, does a terrific job bringing the story to the screen and demanding the most out of his cast.

“Election” follows Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), a high-school student with a hidden agenda behind every action, and Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), a teacher at the high school determined to stop Tracy’s latest scheme.  Tracy’s next devious plan is to become the student-body president.  Jim is not about to let that happen.  Tracy had lured Jim’s friend into a sexual encounter, costing him his job, family and mental health.  Jim, not too keen on his own life, takes pride in his participation in school activities.  Much like “Deck the Halls,” Broderick plays that self-loathing, retaliation character.  Jim gets a popular jock to run against Tracy.  Tracy proceeds to plot revenge while Jim stops at nothing to block her evil attempts at destroying the competition.

“Election” is a dark comedy and political satire, which could not be any more appropriate in today’s political arena.  Director Alexander Payne gained acclaim from this film.  He has gone on to write and direct “Sideways” (also released on Blu-ray) and “About Schmidt.”  “Election,” however, is the best of his work.  There is no question about it.  He tells the story in a manner that makes you waver on which character is the evil one.  By the end of the film you may find yourself rooting for someone different to win. Matthew Broderick, not one of my favorite actors, does a terrific job portraying a teacher down in the dumps.  He really displays his character’s complex layer on the screen.  However, nothing can outshine Reese.  She has had quite the career, and is just darling in every one of her films.  She can play the smart and innocent girl of “Cruel Intentions” or vapid and vacuous blonde of “Legally Blonde.”  She can play a frightened teenager in “Fear” or the loveable small town gal trying to make it big in “Sweet Home Alabama.”  Reese will surely continue to have a great future.

This film is encoded at 1080p/AVC and provides a considerable upgrade to the standard DVD edition.  The best part of the encode is probably the level of detail.  Anything that appears a bit soft seems to be part of the original production and not digital noise reduction.  Blacks are satisfactory, but nothing more.  The color palette is washed out, which is the original intent of Payne.  Shadow delineation is better than I would have expected.  The transfer does suffer from frequent specks of dust and dirt and some scratches.  The contrast levels are inconsistent in the film as is the level of grain.  If you are looking for demo quality you will not find it in this Blu-ray, however it is so nice to see some of the 1990s films with sufficient details.

Paramount presents us with a Dolby TrueHD 5.0 audio track.  Strike one, and a big ding is the lack of an LFE channel, although the film doesn’t really demand one.  It is just odd to see a film lack the .1 channel.  The music score could have benefitted from some subwoofer action.  The original sound design is extremely front heavy.  I cannot recall any discrete effects in the rear channels.  The surrounds serve as environmental enhancers, and it does not do a great job at that either.  The dialogue is the priority here, and it is clean and clear.  The dynamics of the soundtrack is poor due to the lack of an LFE channel as well as any type of movement in the sound design.  Given the original soundtrack, the transfer does a decent job of replicating the original intent.  It is just that the original intent is subpar.

The Blu-ray disc contains only one special feature.  The audio commentary present on the Blu-ray is the same one feature present on the standard DVD.  The commentary is with director Alexander Payne.  The track is informative but a bit boring.  Listening to the track you find out all sorts of on-set details straight from the director’s mouth.  Still it is a struggle to sit through.

“Election” is definitely worth it.  Open your mind and strengthen your stomach and you will come out of this film with a new understanding of human behavior.  The video and audio quality a decent but not spectacular.  Pick up this Blu-ray for the film itself.

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