Updated: Apr 12, 2018
“ELECTION: THE CRITERION COLLECTION”
Blu-ray and DVD; 1999; R, strong sexuality, sex-related dialogue and language, one scene of drug use
Best extra: The new interview, “Who Cares? I Do: Reese Witherspoon on ‘Election’”
IT’S BEEN nearly 20 years since Reese Witherspoon served notice as Tracy Flick in this razor-sharp satire. Since then, she’s played Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” won an Oscar as June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line,” co-starred as Madeline Martha Mackenzie in the lauded HBO series “Big Little Lies” and spoken up for animals in memorable ads for PETA.
But it’s Flick, the chipper, obsessive, overachiever who is dead set on being the next student body president of G.W. Carver High School in Omaha, Neb., that registers most with her fans.
“Every week, somebody mentions Tracy—literally, if not more frequently,” Witherspoon says in a new interview for this Criterion release. “It’s interesting that people try to separate me from that character. I had a hard time getting work for a few years. The big studio heads thought I was this shrew.
“I think Paramount owe me lost wages for shrewishness.”
She’s kidding, but it’s easy to see why Tracy comes up so often: Witherspoon kills it.
As she steamrolls to victory, Tracy seriously frays the nerves of civics teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick, “Glory”), who talks popular jock Paul Metzler (Chris Klein, “We Were Soldiers”) into running. McAllister has another reason for backing Paul—Tracy apparently slept with a colleague and ruined his career.
The film also scores because, as Witherspoon points out, of its authenticity. Director/co-writer Alexander Payne (“Citizen Ruth,” “Sideways,” “Nebraska”) is from Omaha, and he and Witherspoon, who also grew up in flyover country, connected right off. They spent three weeks at a local high school observing the comings and goings. Students were recruited to play extras.
Then, there’s its relevance. In fact, “Election’s” sting could hardly be sharper.
In her accompanying essay, Slate film critic Dana Stevens discusses why the film is still pertinent. Adapted from the Tom Perrotta novel, which was inspired by the 1992 presidential election, it pits a hyper-qualified female candidate who’s crack-backed for her unseemly ambition against a demagogue who has no business running for office.
Criterion, God bless ‘em, has pulled out the stops, giving it a 4K makeover—supervised by Payne from the Super 35mm original camera negative—that serves up everything you’d want: exceptional colors, balanced contrasts and fine detail. The 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack doesn’t miss a beat, either. The dialogue is clear and the soundtrack, featuring songs by Donovan, Spacehog, the Commodores and The Damnations TX, is wide and deep.
The Witherspoon interview and Stevens essay aren’t the only new extras. The 2016 documentary “Truinside: Election” features on-set footage and cast and crew interviews, and “The Passion of Martin,” Payne’s 1990 UCLA thesis film, includes a new intro by the director. Filling out the menu are a 1999 Payne commentary, an Omaha news report on the production and the trailer.
Folks, this one’s no contest: Make room on the shelf.
- Craig Shapiro