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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Emperor’s Club (review)

Dead Emperor’s Society

EXT. HALLOWED HALLS – DAY

The sun DAPPLES on the ancient and beloved stones of St. Benedict’s School for Clichéd Boys. It is a beautiful GOLDEN autumn day.

KEVIN KLINE strolls across the perfectly manicured lawn– er, no, KEVIN KLINE strolls down the concrete path running between perfectly manicured lawns. He’s much too anal not to obey the “Keep Off The Grass” sign.

Kevin spies INTERCHANGEABLE PERFECT STUDENT #1 running across the perfectly manicured grass and FROWNS at this freespiritedness.

  • KEVIN
  • How now, young master student?
  • INTERCHANGEABLE PERFECT STUDENT #1
  • Huh?
  • KEVIN
  • What does that sign say?

The student looks in the direction Kevin is pointing.

  • INTERCHANGEABLE PERFECT STUDENT #1
  • Uh, which one?
  • KEVIN
  • Now, really, young master student, do you honestly think I’m referring to the sign that reads “No Ball-Playing Allowed Until Act II”? Or the one that reads “This Lawn Is A Metaphor For The Whole Damn Movie”?
  • INTERCHANGEABLE PERFECT STUDENT #1
  • Uh, I guess not, sir.
  • KEVIN
  • No, young master student. I direct your attention to the one that reads “Comfort Through Conformity.” Take it to heart, young sir.
  • INTERCHANGEABLE PERFECT STUDENT #1
  • Uh, okay.

INT. HALLOWED HALLS – LATER

Interchangeably Perfect Students run through the hall. God forbid they should be late for class, what with them being the children of privilege and all and do they have any idea how they’d shame the family name if they were a nanosecond out of lockstep? Not that that wouldn’t be the end of this family’s annual endowment if you got a single demerit. Straighten up, young man, and pay attention when I’m talking to you.

INT. ANCIENT HISTORY CLASSROOM

This is what school looks like when it’s funded by actual money. Forget cinderblocks painted institutional green and maybe, if you’re lucky, one educational poster from 1964 stuck up there with yellowed masking tape. There are actual ancient artifacts here.

Kevin paces the front of the room while Interchangeably Perfect Students and TOKEN ETHNIC STUDENT settle into their seats.

  • KEVIN
  • Good morning, young master students. I am Mr. Kline. Welcome to Ancient History for Really Quite Honorable Young Men. The coursework for this class has not changed since 1924, and your fathers and grandfathers all sat in those very seats. And yet, because you are such honorable and perfect young men, I know that there will be no cheating in this classroom, no desperate phone calls home to Pater to dig up his midterm–
  • TOKEN ETHNIC STUDENT
  • I would just like to point out, sir, that the only thing that fails to make me as interchangeable as the other perfect students is the color of my skin. I shall strive to succeed, sir, because really race is not an issue when this kind of money comes into it. My father–

DISREPUTABLE STUDENT barges into the classroom and sneers at everyone.

  • DISREPUTABLE STUDENT
  • Hello, all. I am a major hardass, and I know how to have fun. I plan on attempting to corrupt you all, even though I know that you’re all so decent and honorable that I’d never in a million years succeed. I also plan on lying, cheating, and breaking the rules whenever I can whether anyone joins me or not.
  • KEVIN
  • Have a seat, Mr. Hardass.
  • DISREPUTABLE STUDENT
  • My dad’s a Senator, you twat.

Disreputable Student exits. Kevin sighs.

  • KEVIN
  • I can see that I certainly have my work cut out for me. I’m either going to whip that confused young man into shape or I’m going to get a humiliating lesson in reality, followed by an uplifting lesson about the power of teaching.

INT. HALLOWED HALL

No, seriously: I mean an actual hallowed hallway of the hallowed halls. There’s a display case with a bust of Julius Caesar. There are medals and awards and crap like that displayed everywhere. The sunlight DAPPLES through stained-glass windows. Everybody wears little GOLDEN crest-shaped patches on their red blazers. Can you freaking believe this place?

  • EMBETH DAVITZ
  • I was in Schindler’s List. Now I have about three lines in this boys’ club of a movie.
  • ROB MORROW
  • Hey, it’s not that you’re a girl. I’ve got like four lines. I haven’t had a decent role since Northern Exposure.
  • EMBETH DAVITZ
  • Hey, Quiz Show.
  • ROB MORROW
  • Okay, but the accent…
  • EMBETH DAVITZ
  • That was unfortunate.
  • ROB MORROW
  • So, I think I’m a teacher here. I get to wear a red jacket with a pretentious-looking patch on it, at least.
  • EMBETH DAVITZ
  • I might be a teacher too, but I’m not really sure. I think I’m mostly symbolic of something amiss in Kevin’s life. I mean, clearly there’s an attraction between us, but I’m married. His loneliness, perhaps?
  • ROB MORROW
  • Maybe you’re just here to show how honorable and perfect he is — you know, he won’t pursue a beautiful married woman like yourself even though he’s madly in love with you.
  • EMBETH DAVITZ
  • It’s tragic, really. If Kev could loosen up just a tad. I’d leave my dork of a husband in a second if I thought Kev was really interested in me for anything other than long chats about Aristotle.
  • ROB MORROW
  • It’s a fuckin’ shame, is what it is.

EXT. PERFECTLY MANICURED LAWN – DAY

The GOLDEN sunlight DAPPLES on the green grass. God, don’t you wanna just cry at the beauty of the world?

Interchangeable Perfect Students #1 through #12 and Disreputable Student play a game of baseball on the lawn. Disreputable Student is the pitcher, of course, like he’s some tough guy like Tatum O’Neal in The Bad News Bears, which, since this all taking place right around the time that movie was released, Disreputable Student might actually imagine himself as.

Kevin walks rapidly along the concrete path, trying desperately not the notice the boys despoiling the lawn.

  • DISREPUTABLE STUDENT
  • C’mon, Mr. Kline, come take a swing.
  • KEVIN
  • La la la, I’m not listening…..
  • DISREPUTABLE STUDENT
  • Whaddaya, chicken?
  • KEVIN
  • There are no cracks in my facade, boys. I really am this straight-arrow guy with a stick up my ass.
  • DISREPUTABLE STUDENT
  • C’mon….

Cracks start to show in Kevin’s facade.

  • KEVIN
  • Oh, all right.

Kevin comes up to the plate and takes a swing, which he hits. The ball sails through the air to SMASH the headmaster’s car window. The students and Kevin all run to escape detection.

The ice is BROKEN. Kevin is instantly buddies with all these kids, which is mostly unsurprising because except for Disreputable Student, they are all exactly like him.

LATER

  • KEVIN
  • Mr. Hardass, I know you and I haven’t gotten along, but that business with the baseball was a turning point for us. I think you’re extremely bright — even though I have no evidence whatsoever to support such a supposition — and I know you can win the annual Ancient History trivia contest that is the high point of a year at St. Benedict’s School for Clichéd Boys.
  • DISREPUTABLE STUDENT
  • God, this place is sad. But I guess I’ll start to apply myself and do better on tests and stuff. And I guess I’ll win the contest too. And it’s all down to you, Mr. Kline. You’re the best teacher I’ve ever had.

Kevin is so MOVED that his eyes WELL with tears.

LATER

Disreputable Student gets a C on a test, and turns to Kevin with a grateful look on his face.

Kevin is so MOVED that his eyes WELL with tears.

LATER

Disreputable Student gets a B on a test, and turns to Kevin with a grateful look on his face.

Kevin is so MOVED that his eyes WELL with tears.

LATER

Disreputable Student gets an A on a test, and turns to Kevin with a grateful look on his face.

Kevin is so MOVED that his eyes WELL with tears.

INT. HALLOWED HALLS – DAY

The auditorium is festooned with ancient history decorations. Interchangeable Perfect Student #1, Token Ethnic Student, and Disreputable Student all stand on the stage, wearing togas. The sun DAPPLES on them. Oh god I can’t stand the perfection of it all.

The tension is PALPABLE — the trivia contest is down to the last question.

  • KEVIN
  • Who was commander of the armies of the North and general of the Felix Legions under emperor Marcus Aurelius?
  • DISREPUTABLE STUDENT
  • Was that Maximus Decimus Meridius?
  • KEVIN
  • Mr. Hardass wins!
  • TOKEN ETHNIC STUDENT
  • I am disappointed in losing, of course, but the better man won.
  • KEVIN
  • (to himself)
  • No, he didn’t! He cheated, you idiots. But because I’m so honorable I won’t reveal that. I’m not sure how that works out as honorableness, but I’m assured that it does. In fact, I’m going to keep it all a big secret for a quarter of a century, until the Epilogue.
  • DISREPUTABLE STUDENT
  • I have to thank Mr. Kline, who’s just the best teacher ever in the history of the world.

Kevin is so DISAPPOINTED at his failure that his eyes WELL with tears.

EPILOGUE — 25 YEARS LATER

A reunion of the clichéd boys of St. Benedict’s.

Interchangeable Perfect Students #1 through #12 have now matured into Interchangeable Successful And Wealthy Men.

  • KEVIN
  • Gentlemen, I did a terrible thing. I enabled a cheater, for one, and did some other stuff that you don’t even know about. I’m terrible, a rotten failure of a man.
  • INTERCHANGEABLE SUCCESSFUL AND WEALTHY MEN
  • No. You’re still the best teacher ever in the history of the universe.

Kevin is so MOVED that his eyes WELL with tears.

  • AUDIENCE
  • What the hell was that? Where was the quidditch? Where was the Chamber of Secrets?
  • MARYANN
  • No, you don’t want hallowed halls. You want Halloweened halls. That’s next door, in Theater 12.
  • AUDIENCE
  • Ohhhhhh…..

MPAA: rated PG-13 for some sexual content and brief language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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