[UPDATE: Well, it was clearly going to happen sooner or later, but youtube has pulled the video. Alas, alack, woe is you if you’re just seeing this post now.]
If you haven’t see Alexander Payne’s phenomenal dark comedy Election, starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon, you really should treat yourself and check it out. You should also stop reading this. Not only will this be of little to no interest to you, but it will also contain spoilers for the film I just recommended you see. So get out of here!
Alright. The rest of you may continue…
This is just fucking eerie. Literally last night I was having a discussion with two friends about a script they’d written. Giving notes, etc. The crux of the discussion became a lead character who was supposed to be sympathetic but just wasn’t that likable from my perspective. Normally the logical note would be to make the character more likable, but I suggested just embracing the fact that this seemingly sympathetic character is eventually revealed to be a bit of a douche. I used Election as my example of how this can work and still feel like a funny and satisfying ending. That ending is of course a bitter Broderick living in New York in disgrace, working a shitty job at a museum, and ultimately throwing a milkshake at a limo containing Reese Witherspoon in a fit of childish and petty rage. It’s a great ending. And not for a moment have I ever thought that it would have been nice if things had turned out happier for Broderick’s character.
Needless to say (yet I’m saying it anyway) it was quite bizarre this morning when I discovered that Slashfilm had a link to Election‘s original ending — original happy ending! The ending comes straight out of author Tom Perrotta’s novel, upon which the film is based. But apparently test audiences weren’t too keen on seeing everything turn out so schmaltzy, so Payne went back and shot the bleaker and more twisted epilogue that we all fell in love with (or at least I did). I seriously love shit like this. It is so easy to champion the “original intent” of writers and filmmakers; the notion that their initial ideas are always the best and that any tinkering on the part of anyone else is a negative. But anyone who has ever written a screenplay or worked on a movie know that – while that is certainly true in many cases – movies can also evolve for the better because of outside interference. And the death of many a filmmaker has been reaching that position where no one says “No” to you anymore, where your original intent makes it to audiences unfettered (Lucas, M. Night, anyone?). This is in no way a dig directed towards Payne. I just think it is kind of amazing that an ending so quintessentially unconventional that I was using it in an argument was in fact a test audience mandated reshoot. What a world.