The Emperor’s Club is about making a difference,
learning from history, and contributing to society. There is a plot,
though its unnecessary to the film’s meaning. This beautiful and
elegant tale could be told under any set of characters, with any
actors, and any director. The specific way this film is made works,
but could’ve been improved. It can be superficial at times, but we
are still touched by the story and Kline and Hirsh’s amazing
chemistry. Some of the material is worth four buckets, but the end
result is a 3.
William Hundert (Kevin Kline) is a
passionate teacher at St. Benedictus School for Boys. The
prestigious private school is located on the east coast, and houses
the sons of wealthy men. They are all very intelligent and serious
about their studies; the school is almost like a direct ticket to an
Ivy League college. It isn’t the most up to date, in terms of
technology, but everyone there is extremely hard working. The rules
are strict and sharp, and all of the students follow them. There is
not one goof-off that goes to it.
This is a stringent institution for the
finest young intellectuals. That is until something happens, and
that something is named Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch). Sedgewick is
the son of the senator (Harris Yulin), and is shipped off to this
school because his father, really, doesn’t care about him. Sedgewick
is a joker, and constantly makes fun Mr. Hundert right into his
face. He scores poorly on tests and doesn’t try at all in academics.
He shows his fellow classmates porno, and constantly disturbs them
via little annoyances.
Mr. Hundert thinks that Sedgewick is
hopeless, but he miraculously starts to improve. All of a sudden, he
begins to study, and actually enjoys it. Socrates, Plato, and Julius
Caesar fill his mind with amazement. This was considered impossible
by almost everyone who knew Sedgewick before the rapid change, but
his companions were delightfully surprised when he expanded his
tastes. At this point in the film, the once despised character now
grows on us. Emile Hirsh is excellent, and plays Sedgewick well.
Every year, St. Benedictus has the
prestigious “Julius Ceasar” competition. In this competition, three
of the boys who go to the school compete. To determine the three
entrants, the students must take a series of quizzes, graded by Mr.
Hundert. These quizzes earn them points. The contest is narrowed
down to a top ten, and then to the three. Mr. Hundert wants
Sedgewick to be one of the contestants so badly that he changes his
“A-,” on the final test, leaving him in fourth place, and shy of the
competition to an “A+,” that allows him to make it.
The other two contestants are Deepak Metha,
a very studious Indian boy, and Louis Massoudi, Sedgewick’s cocky
friend. This is a glorious day for everyone, except Martin Blythe,
the boy who ended up in fourth place, wrongfully, because of
Sedgewick’s bumped up score. This is one mistake that Mr. Hundert
will regret forever, because during the glorious “Caesar”
competition Sedgewick makes a vile and unintelligent mistake. This
mistake leaves Martin, and Sedgewick, short of what they really
The Emperor’s Club executes
with style, but the second half does not have the wit and daringness
of the first. This is not to say that it is a bad movie, but in a
way, a missed opportunity. Kevin Kline and Emile Hirsch are fabulous
as the strict, but passionate Mr. Hundert, and the disobeying
Sedgewick. I did not question the film, but I did wonder what it
could’ve been. The characters are well-written, but seem like they
need more explanation. This is solid filmmaking, but not, by any
means one of the year’s best.
-Danny, Bucket Reviews