Know-it-all students raise their hands even when they know the teacher wants to call on someone else. But Tracy Flick is even smarter than that, and wants to win the student election in this sharp satire only because she's already won every other school award. Seen mostly through the eyes of a teacher who can't take her aggressive manipulations, she lets him know she hopes they "can work together harmoniously."
(Annoyed, he, Jim McAllister (Broderick), a kind of modern archetype, knows that Tracy "harmoniously" seduced a faculty member friend of his, the year before. Although Tracy repels McAllister, he also lusts for her. To resist her, he talks another student into opposing her: slow-brained athlete Paul (Klein). When his lesbian sister, Tammy (Jessica Campbell), jumps into the race with idea of dissolving the student government "so we'll never have to sit through another of these stupid elections," the race gets hot. Tracy's platform seems to be that she should win just because she should; she turns up on election day with 480 cupcakes she baked, one for each voter, and seems maddeningly invincible. Always perfectly dressed, she maintains a maddening, cheery facade, even as she goes ruthlessly about winning AND being sure her opponents really lose. Jim McAllister must stop her before she inflicts damage; he narrates in tones of wonder and horror, which Broderick manages to balance, although he's fascinated by Flick's ability to keep her eye on the prize and her feet on other people's backs as she climbs to the top. Poor students might be problems, but compulsive over-achievers are sometimes worse.((Payne's direction casts satire in all fairness; he doesn't aim for easy targets, but in all directions, which might hurt his films' revenues: he doesn't choose sides, but cheerfully and open-mindedly ridicules all sides.((This film is about more than just an obnoxiously striving student; it has an imperfect teacher, an administration in lockstep, and students who seem only to be marking time until they can take up valuable space in the world. The movie isn't mean-spirited; you almost like Tracy Flick, sometimes, and might even feel sorry for her. Payne avoids cheap shots, too, as he blasts at elections generally, for voters having to choose from among the kinds of people who have been running for office since high school.
Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor. based on the novel by Tom Perrotta
Reese Witherspoon, Matthew Broderick, Chris Klein
Student elections; Reese Witherspoon; over-achievers
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