The Emperor's Club | Chicago Reader

The Emperor's Club

Yet another teacher agonizes: How do I reach my students? Are they worth the sacrifices? Surprisingly, this isn't as bad as it could be. Kevin Kline, a classics teacher at an exclusive prep school in the mid-70s, comes up against a rebellious student (Emile Hirsch) who just won't live up to his potential. Kline does all those inspiring teacher things to make the boy see his own intelligence, and 25 years later he confronts the student in a restaging of an academic competition. The students are stereotypes so earnest and eager to learn they make your teeth hurt. The film also wobbles between impulses to be a simple feel-good story and a trickier, ultimately sadder tale about a man facing a moral and spiritual crisis twice—the latter idea presumably from the source material, Ethan Canin's story “The Palace Thief.” Unfortunately the first impulse wins out, as Neil Tolkin's script goes for the easy uplift. Directed by Michael Hoffman. 109 min.

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