Colleen Powers is a writer and editor living in Minneapolis.


Election the movie by Alexander Payne advantages:

  • The opening, where you hear the sound of a sprinkler thwacking away on an empty field outside a school well before you realize what the sound is
  • Freeze frames on Reese Witherspoon making silly faces
  • The smash cut that immediately follows Matthew Broderick voiceover saying, “There’s one more thing you should know about Tracy Flick.”
  • Jessica Campbell, a.k.a. Tuba Girl from Freaks and Geeks
  • Reese’s acting in the scene where she tears down all of the posters. Has any other movie used her crazy eyes as well?
  • Whoever plays Student Council election judge Larry  perfect casting

Election the book by Tom Perrotta advantages:

  • We hear extensively from Lisa Flanagan, who dates both Paul and Tammy; from Paul himself, who is a lot less Chris Klein-y and a lot more self-aware; and from the janitor who finds the missing votes
  • Most of the sex is treated less as a winking joke on everyone involved and more as something real and complicated
  • All of the characters’ conclusions are more complex and bittersweet than in the movie. Mr. McAllister stays with his wife and has a son, but he doesn’t get to move to New York and work at a museum and continue his life’s work of teaching. He’s broke and he has to work at a car dealership with assholes who tell tasteless jokes. He and Tracy reconcile, though, and we hear more about Tracy’s loneliness. Tammy transfers to Catholic girls’ school but hates it just as much as public school.

I’m not sure if this is a “movies vs. books in general” conclusion or a “Tom Perrotta is really good at what he does” conclusion.

The Call