Enthusiastically committed high school teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) gets his morals (or is it ethics?) tangled up when he goes too far in his attempts to thwart the campaign of ferociously ambitious Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) to run for school president. Alexander Payne’s smart satire is a re-working of On The Waterfront screenwriter Budd Schulberg’s novel What Makes Sammy Run?, in turn inspired by the career of his own father, the early Hollywood movie producer BP Schulberg.
It’s set and, naturally for Payne, mostly filmed in Omaha, Nebraska, where ‘George Washington Carver High’ is Papillion-La Vista High School, 402 East Centennial Road, between La Vista and Papillion, just to the south of the city.
Not far away is the La Vista branch of Godfather's Pizza, 7920 South 84th Street, in which Tracy begins a clandestine affair with her teacher Dave Novotny (Mark Harelik) at an after-school dinner.
McAllister’s plan involves encouraging good-natured doofus Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) to run against Tracy. The well-off Metzler family, who’ve made it big in cement, live in a rather grand house alongside Shadow Ridge Country Club at 1562 South 187th Circle, West Omaha.
The first glitch in McAllister’s scheme comes in the form of Paul’s sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell), in the throes of coming to terms with her burgeoning lesbianism, who launches her own campaign.
Tammy, who finds her peace contemplating the chimneys of the OPPD North Omaha Power Station, 7475 John J Pershing Drive, North Omaha on the banks of the Missouri River, is eventually distracted by the girls of ‘Immaculate Heart Catholic School’ playing soccer in Memorial Park, 6005 Underwood Avenue, north of the city.
Just northwest of the park at 683 Parkwood Lane lives Linda Novotny (Delaney Driscoll), estranged wife of disgraced teacher Dave, with whom McAllister makes the fatal mistake of getting entangled.
The motel at which McAllister frantically sets up a much-anticipated assignation was the American Family Inn, now the Rodeway Inn, 1110 Fort Crook Road South, Bellevue, southeast of Omaha.
After Mr McAllister’s impulsive sabotaging of Tracy’s campaign is uncovered, courtesy of a resentful janitor, he’s obliged to resign.
A conference takes him to Washington DC and, after a touristy visit to the Lincoln Memorial, he catches one final glimpse of Tracy Flick as she accompanies a republican senator exiting the Hay-Adams Hotel, 800 16th Street NW at H Street NW.
And, yes, as their limo disappears down 16th Street, McAllister just can’t resist launching his cup of Pepsi at the rear window.