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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2002!
THE EMPEROR'S CLUB, 2002
Starring Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch, Embeth Davidtz, Rob Morror, Edward Herrmann, Paul Dano
A respected professor reminisces about his previous students.
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Impressed just by the cast and crew who appeared on the back of the DVD cover, the work of Kevin Kline is something I follow very closely. Although my favourite movie of his has to be the underrated “Dave” I found myself enthralled by the very existence of this movie which is headed by Kevin but ably supported by other fine thespians who more than prove their worth when put alongside a stalwart as Mr Kline.
William Hundert (Kline) is an expert in the classics at a prestigious boys school in 1960’s America. Respected by his students and peers, he is at the height of his intellectuality. That is until a repugnant oath named Sedgewick Bell (Hirsch) joins William’s class. The son of a senator, he is disillusioned to say the least and wastes no time in leading his classmates astray. William does not view him as a problem, but as a challenge. He preps him towards the schools annual “Mr Caesar” class, where the top three of his students are put against each other in a clash of classical knowledge.
Day after day and week after week, the results are in. Sedgewick has not made it, but William decides to use the benefit of doubt and admit Sedgewick into the contest. Up against some very intelligent young men, Sedgewick finds it difficult to overcome this problem but will he ever succeed?
This movie is often compared to the immensely popular “Dead Poets Society”. I do admit that the similarities are there; respected academic teacher who is knowledgeable in his chosen field and as a result inspires his students. But to say this movie is similar to the one starring Robin Williams is to say that “Star Wars” is just like “Starship Troopers” just because it is partially set in space. It is preposterous to say the least, as the storyline is vastly different from one and other and each character’s motivations are completely different. And, most importantly, the performances are superior in many ways.
Kevin Kline is quite the wonder here. His articulate and dedicated performance of William is simply remarkable, and at times you could honestly believe that his knowledge of Plato and Socrates was recited first hand. Neil Tolkin’s script is served best here by Kline, and does himself proud and by the end of the movie you really do find yourself rooting for William and his conquest to make Sedgewick a better person and, most importantly, a wiser student.
Kline’s younger contemporary Emile Hirsch does a fine job here as well. According to IMDB, his small and silver screen appearance amounted to only fifteen before the release of this movie, when compared with Kline’s thirty-four outings. I know it’s been a while since I left high school, but that’s over double the amount of screen time. And yet, this lack of exposure does not daunt Hirsch as he puts in a first-rate performance of the alpha-male student who is respected by his fellow students and despised by all teachers except William. He is the archetypal student which independent American cinema has given us time after time. Some performances have been great, others half-hearted. But here, Hirsch can certainly count himself in the former camp. A performance to savour, for sure.
I must reiterate my previous remark; “The Emperor’s Club” is not similar to “Dead Poets Society” at all. It is similar in some ways that it includes actors, actresses and, gosh, dialogue but apart from that this movie is completely different. You just have to simply appreciate it on the status which is presented to us, the lucky public, as we really should bow down and grovel for more as we are certainly not worthy.