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The Emperor's Club

By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted

Movies don't come much more trite than The Emperor's Club. Private school instructor William Hundert (Kevin Kline) imparts the eternal wisdom of Greek and Roman ancients upon rich white boys in the 1970s. In the middle of the school year, new boy Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch) becomes a nihilistic thorn in the side of Hundert; among the ghastly subversions of this incorrigible rebel are impugning the manhood of togas and enjoying Godard's Breathless. But Hundert remains patient, eventually grooming Sedgewick for competition in their school's prestigious Mr. Julius Caesar competition (basically Jeopardy limited to Greco-Roman minutiae). Twenty-five years later, we find Hundert still affected by how both he and Sedgewick handled their time together. Kline delivers an agreeable performance, and somewhere here there's a valuable lesson about how spoiled, amoral bastards fake their way to power in our country, but both are completely overshadowed by inept pacing and clumsy sentimentality--not to mention director Michael Hoffman's obvious love affair with an exclusive, excluding world that has little use for women, poor people, and non-Western cultures.

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