The Emperor's Club

"Excellent"

The Emperor's Club Review


There's an old cheap saying that goes "those who can, do; those who can't, teach". Professor William Hundert (Kevin Kline) would disagree. A true scholar of the Classics, this intellectual believes that there is no greater endeavor than the passing-on of knowledge, that molding a young man's life is a noble and important vocation. What Professor Hundert gets for his lofty ideals is a lesson in cynicism, and maybe humility, in this fine effort from director Michael Hoffman (A Midsummer Night's Dream), which features an exceptionally strong performance from Kline, an actor who consistently raises the level of nearly every film he's in.

It's the mid-1970s at a proper boys' prep school in DC, and Kline's Hundert encounters his first splash in the face with the cold water of life outside revered academia when he meets the father of a mischievous underachieving student. The stern dad, a brash U.S. senator, scolds Hundert: "You will not mold my son, I will mold my son". With a dose more sympathy for the kid, Hundert befriends him and watches him turn into a studying machine.

The academic transformation of young Sedgewick Bell (an uncomfortable-looking Emile Hirsch, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys) is one of the weaker points of the film, coming across with minimal development and questionable motivation. But Hoffman keeps the talky action moving, and there's a greater good involved, a satisfaction in seeing Bell take part in his classmates' insatiable hunger to soak up facts in the hopes of making the final round of a ridiculous old contest known as Mr. Julius Caesar (some traditions just ain't worth keeping).

Throughout The Emperor's Club there's an overriding theme that says there's a big gap between understanding the history of civilization and actually being civilized. The humble Mr. Hundert, who Kline expertly portrays with a finely tuned combination of pride, formality, and snobbish stiffness, finds his ego along the way. He is so impressed with the progress of his formerly troublesome charge that he secretly bends the rules for him. It's a slightly immoral move that Hundert regrets when he finds that Sedgewick has some rule-bending ideas of his own.

Neil Tolkin's script, based upon a short story by Ethan Canin, has some gentle twists, both large and small, with the final third of the film surprisingly taking place some 20 years later. It all works though, as the story's winding path continues to support its main, bigger picture themes. When Kline's Hundert meets his former students as adults, he finds even more lessons in store, in a world where men of power get off on the lust of competition just as much as when they were teens.

But The Emperor's Club is not wholly cynical. Kline portrays Hundert with such passion, hopefulness, and hunger, it's hard not to enjoy and appreciate his life's work in this feature that feels a bit like Dead Poets Society minus the histrionics. Kline's steady presence, Hoffman's eager direction and some fine supporting performances combine to help provide intertwined thrills -- one that comes in watching a film that embraces education and dignity, and one that favors politeness and knowledge in this chaotic, and often rude, world.

Reviewed at the 2002 Boston Film Festival.

The emperor's ball club.



The Emperor's Club

Facts and Figures

Run time: 109 mins

In Theaters: Friday 22nd November 2002

Box Office USA: $14.0M

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Production compaines: Universal Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 64 Rotten: 63

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as William Hundert, as Sedgewick Bell, as Elizabeth, as James Ellerby

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.