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Frontrunners

A very entertaining documentary
By GERALD PEARY  |  October 25, 2008
3.0 3.0 Stars
frontrunnersINSIDE.jpg

Comparisons with Alexander Payne’s Election won’t fly. There’s no equivalent character to Reese Witherspoon’s conniving Tracy Flick in FrontRunners, Caroline Suh’s very entertaining feature documentary about a hard-fought battle for student-body president at Stuyvesant High School in New York City. The three serious candidates for the office are decent, smart, high-achieving kids — what you’d expect at New York’s most competitive public high school, one open to just the top three percent of applicants. Among the candidates, two stand out. Hannah is a cheerleader and a talented actress (she appeared in the indie feature Palindromes) who lives with her liberal mother on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. George, the son of Greek immigrants, resides in a Queens split-level. Both are charming and charismatic, though George, a cute junior version of Christian Slater, speaks in odd philosophical bites that wander perilously close to malapropism: “We want to get at the very spinal cord of student government.” Does this high-school election have any relevance to our national one? There’s a debate near the end pitting a highly motivated, verbally articulate candidate without student-government experience against one with several years of experience who resorts to clichés ( “Let’s raise the bar!”) and gnarls his rhetoric. 80 minutes | Brattle Theatre: October 24-30 
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