Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|A Beautiful Mind/The Emperor's Club|
Actors: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch, Joel Gretsch
Directors: Michael Hoffman, Ron Howard
TWO SUPERLATIVE FILMS IN ONE PACKAGE...
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 09/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""A Beautiful Mind" is an excellent film, directed by Ron Howard, someone who is sure to be remembered as a legend in his own time for the number of high quality films that he has directed. He is certainly one of the finest directors around today, and this film is certainly reflective of his talent. The technique that he employs to illustrate the descent of John Nash into the world of schizophrenia is highly effective.
Loosely based upon the biography of the same name by Sylvia Nasar, the world of schizophrenia is brought to life in this film by a wonderful screenplay, deft direction, and superb acting. Featuring the life of Nobel Prize laureate, John Nash, this film begins to chronicle his life from 1947, when he was a young, promising, though eccentric, graduate student at Princeton University. The film delineates his lack of social skills, eccentricities, rise to prominence, marriage, and eventual descent into schizophrenic hell. It follows his battle with madness and his own way of coping with his inner demons. It also shows how Nash's early work proved to be so influential that it netted him a Nobel Prize decades later. While a number of people have objected to the fact that this film leaves out some of the darker sides of Nash, one would do well to remember that this is not a documentary but merely a dramatization.
Russell Crowe gives a memorable portrayal of the afflicted and tormented John Nash, beleaguered by the devils that existed only in his mind. Ed Harris is compelling as the slightly sinister Parcher, a shadowy government operative whose existence is intertwined with that of John's. Paul Bettany, as he did in the role of Chaucer in "A Knight's Tale", once again almost steals the show in the role of John's alleged roommate and friend, Charles. Christopher Plummer is excellent as Dr. Rosen, the psychiatrist who appeals to the dormant rationality in Nash. While Jennifer Connelly gives a very good performance in the role of Alicia, John's caring wife, it does not rise to the level of Oscar worthy, though she won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
"The Emperor's Club" is a gem of a film with a beautifully nuanced performance by Kevin Kline. When I saw this film in the video store, its descriptive blurb brought to mind films such as "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", "The Dead Poet's Society", and even "Mr. Holland's Opus". So, I thought it would be a pleasant, sentimental film. Well, it turns out that this film delivers much more than sentimentality, as its themes are far more complex. It is simply a wonderful film with stellar performances by the entire cast.
Kevin Kline is superlative in the role of Mr. William Hundert, the assistant headmaster at St. Benedict's Academy, where he is also the history teacher, focusing on the ancient Greeks and Romans. St. Benedict's Academy is a tony, old world boarding school, steeped in tradition and proud of its high academic standards. Through the teaching of the classics, Mr. Hundert strives to instill in his motivated students old fashioned values, such as leadership, honor, integrity, and ethics. He himself tries to live his life by those values.
This cloistered, comfortable world of his, however, is torn asunder, with the entry of a new student, Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch), the charismatic, troubled son of a U.S. Senator. Unmotivated and mischievous, he enters Mr. Hundert's life and ends up tearing it apart. Mr. Hundert sees that Sedgewick is innately intelligent, though an under-achiever. He also realizes that Sedgewick has some issues with his influential father that account for his poor attitude. Seeing that Sedgewick has natural leadership ability, Mr. Hundert decides to try to mold him for the common good. His earnest efforts in trying to put the morally bankrupt Sedgewick on the straight and narrow, however, end up compromising Mr. Hundert's own cherished values. It also gives him a rude awakening. Therein lies the tale.
While much of what occurs in the film holds little surprise, it has some intriguing twists and turns that make it a morally complex and multi-faceted film. It is a film with a message that is particularly applicable in today's win-at-all-costs world, where situational ethics seems to be a by product of the prevailing dog-eat-dog standard. The film reminds the viewer that strength of character does not necessarily exempt one from falling prey to the new ethics promulgated by today's society. Nor are strength of character, goodness, and selfless leadership always rewarded. Sometimes it is passed over for the shallow, showy, and self-promoting. Life is, simply put, not always fair nor does the end always justify the means.
The film is beautifully directed by Michael Hoffman, who displays a deft touch, avoiding mawkishness, and opting, instead, for a more realistic treatment. Kevin Kline is masterful as the highly principled schoolmaster who finds himself ethically compromised and makes a choice that will ripple twenty five years into the future. His portrayal of Mr. Hundert is that of an idealistic human being who is flawed, a man who, when beset by moral dilemmas, does not always make the right choices. Yet, he is a man who is able to come to terms with those choices as his motivations remain true to his ideals. Emile Hirsch is excellent as the troubled Sedgewick, giving the viewer a peak at the man he is eventually to become. Rob Morrow has a small role as James Ellerby, an ambitious colleague of Mr. Hundert's who has his eye on the prize. Mr. Morrow shines in this small, but important role, as it is a role that runs counterpoint to Kevin Kline's role. While all the loose ends are not firmly tied up at the end of this film, this was a wise choice, as life is not always tidy.
This two disc DVD, with two superlative films, is a great package deal and well worth having in one's personal collection. Bravo!