What was it about Election, exactly, that turned so many people off? Alexander Payne‘s brilliant, perfectly shaped black comedy cost $25 million (just shy of $37 million in 2017 dollars) to make, and it only earned a lousy $14.9 million (or nearly $22 million by today’s calculator). Something in this film irritated a large swath of the public, obviously, but what in particular? The reviews couldn’t have been better, but outside of some modest action in the cities Joe and Jane Popcorn just wouldn’t go.

I’ve long suspected that on some deep-seated level Jane didn’t care for the demonizing of Reese Witherspoon‘s Tracy Flick, who always struck me as a female Richard Nixon type — resentful, craven.

The irony, of course, is that Witherspoon will probably never luck into a role as good again. It enabled her to give her very best performance. Certainly her most memorable, in part because she wasn’t “acting” — Tracy Flick is inside Witherspoon as surely as Tom Dunson and Ethan Edwards were inside John Wayne. Tracy Flick was lightning in a bottle, and that stuff doesn’t grow on trees. Criterion’s Election Bluray will pop on 12.12.17.