It’s easy to believe that Tracy Flick, the obnoxiously ambitious high schooler played by Reese Witherspoon in Election, would have trouble finding anybody to sign the yearbook that she helped to design. (Her picture appears on nearly every page; Tracy gives ”Rushmore”’s Max Fischer a run for his extracurricular money.) As the film begins, Tracy is unopposed in the race for student-council president. Annoyed by her tireless perkiness (and, the film suggests, wary of his own lust), frustrated teacher Mr. McAllister (Matthew Broderick) tries to sink her campaign, pressuring the school’s most popular athlete (Chris Klein, doing early Keanu) to put his much respected name on the ballot.
”Election” is smart and savagely funny, but it errs in giving Mr. McAllister too many often pointless reasons to take action against Tracy. The truth is, in a culture where irony has been elevated to an art form and sincerity is viewed with suspicion, humorless go-getters like Tracy are automatically perceived as the enemy — her friendlessness makes perfect sense.
What’s more, she’s so driven to succeed that she often seems on the verge of combustion. Whenever her will is temporarily thwarted, her looks of outrage and disbelief are accompanied on the soundtrack by an unnerving wail; her little eyes narrow, her tiny nostrils flare, and you half expect objects to start exploding or flying across the room. In a just world, ”Election”’s depiction of the potential of female fury would be all the rage.