#135 | Election 2: Becoming Tracy Flick

by | Sep 27, 2019

Listen to our Election episode on:

In Election, Alexander Payne’s pointed high-school political satire, an ambitious, highly qualified woman goes up against a wealthy doofus, wins the popular vote, but is undone by her perceived lack of likability and the resentment of an establishment figure who’s been working against her from day one.

Needless to say, despite being released in 1999, the film resonates just as strongly as ever, if not moreso, in a post Trump vs Clinton landscape. It doesn’t exactly do to credit Payne with some kind of prophetic genius – for a start Election’s wealthy doofus is easily the most pure-hearted character in the movie, despite his clueless privilege. Also, justice is ultimately restored to Tracy Flick when the corruption that initially cost her the Presidency is publicly exposed. We’re still waiting on that outcome in the real world…

Still, like the best of Payne’s work, Election is a sharp, incisive and hilarious exploration of the darker sides of human nature, in essence making the film not so much before its time as timelessly relevant. It helps that the movie is also perfectly cast. It would take Reese Witherspoon years to shake off the ghost of Tracy Flick, but her portrayal of the ferociously driven go-getter is genuinely pitch perfect. Matthew Broderick is also on career-best form as he captures the impotent rage of a middle-of-the-road teacher who’d rather obsessively crush the dreams of his most problematic student than actually try to shape her for the better.

Throw in two great supporting turns from Chris Klein and Jessica Campbell as siblings who come to represent two different sides of political populism, and it’s little wonder why this movie remains at the peak of its over-stuffed genre, despite fairly dismal box office returns on its initial release.

In this weeks episode we debate the likability question around Tracy Flick, admire the many 90s hairstyles on display and imagine where Tracy Flick’s hunger for success might have taken her as she navigated adulthood in the #MeToo era. Along the way, we pitch some drinking games, read out our favourite listener submissions and generally bask in the magnificent comic beats that run through this movie. Tune in, it’s a good’un…

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Starting next week, we’re kicking off our annual horror season with a bitingly funny mockumentary. Until then, happy listening, and remember – you can’t interfere with destiny. That’s why it’s destiny…

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