Movie 43 On My List: A Thunderdome of Ruthless Adolescent Self-Interest

Three weeks ago, I had my 43rd birthday, and as readers of the blog know I’m now obliged to add a 43rd movie to my 42 after 1971 list. (I’d go back and retitle the old posts, but, as Krusty the Klown once so aptly put it, I’m a lazy, lazy man.)

So, here’s #43:

Election: Many people identify with the high schools in John Hughes movies. I’m not one of them. To me, high school was never a place where members of different social classes struggled to find ways to come together. They were Thunderdomes of ruthless adolescent self-interest best observed from a safe, ironic distance. (That’s how I made it through, anyway.) Such a place is Carver High in Alexander Payne’s Election. The movie best known for Reese Witherspoon’s performance as the irrepressible striver Tracy Flick, but the movie is chock full of driven people, whether they’re driven to get sent to an all-girl’s school, to boink their best friend’s ex-wives, or to avenge themselves on ex-friends. The only person with anyone else’s best interests at heart, Chris Klein’s Paul Metzler, is too privileged and too stupid to know what those best interests really are. All of these grubby motivations come together to form a brilliant satire of not just high school life, but of all our lives, and the ways we justify our nastiest impulses to ourselves.

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