The Breakfast Club (1985)

Title: The Breakfast Club (1985)
Director:John Hughes
Writer: John Hughes

It is very safe to say without sounding as though I am just jumping on the 1980’s bullshit ‘nostalgic bandwagon’ that I really have always been a fan of John Hughes’ movies. I first watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) when I was a teenager (it’s one of my mom’s favourites), and then it was unfortunately many years later in my mid-twenties that I suddenly picked up where I left off and started really watching more of what he had made. It took me four viewings of The Breakfast Club (1985) to realize that this is one of the most perfect films ever made. Seriously! I mean the concept appears to be nothing particularly special. Five high school kids attending Saturday detention in white middle class suburban America during the 1980’s. They have a teacher in charge of said detention who has no interest in them whatsoever and they are all grouped into clichéd subdivisions of high school hierarchy according to once again, the white middle class suburban America. Do these kids have problems? On the surface the answer is a very loud NO, but as the kids start to actually communicate with one another you realize that loneliness, insecurity, anger, frustration and fear are all very real emotions for all of them. And every single one of them holds a specific element that we can all relate to. On a human level they are all basically the same person. Well at least that’s what I get out of this film.

Who are they? Firstly we have Claire, portrayed by Molly Ringwald [a firm Hughes favourite as she appeared in Sixteen Candles (1984) and Pretty in Pink (1986)] who is the quintessential prom queen. She appears blissfully unaware of her effect on those around her (who all seem to hate her). Then there’s Emilio Estevez’s character, Andrew (Andy) who is the ‘Jock’ of the group, who plays sports and is bullied by his father. Brian, played by Anthony Michael Hall (who also reappeared in the Hughes films Weird Science (1985) and Sixteen Candles) is the nerd who has spent his life doing what he’s told and striving for excellence. Allison (Ally Sheedy) is the loner and oddball of the group who is quiet at the beginning and then slowly starts to relate to the others. Finally we have John (played by Judd Nelson) who is the loud and rude and clearly disturbed rebel who is, for all intents and purposes, also the film’s hero, and ours (the viewer’s) too.

With these five characters spending a Saturday in the school’s library for 8 hours we have a recipe for something magical and that is why I say this film is perfect. I have dabbled a little in screen writing and I have always been a sucker for a limited setting because it allows for the dialogue to become the heart of the film. These characters clearly need to talk to one another. I will admit that the premise of this film does not say a lot at first glance and perhaps that was Hughes’ whole point. Throughout the entire film we are breaking through the molds that the kids have found themselves bound by. Upon first glance you see them as the aforementioned labels and then everything gets torn down and you learn to love them, and you want to hug them and tell them  that everything is  going to be okay (even though you know it isn’t and I am not a hugger).

I guess writing this without actually giving any important details away means writing about what this so-called ‘perfect’ films means to me. I mean anyone can write the synopsis and say that the film was a classic example of the rise of teen comedies. They had a wonderful life in the eighties and were then resuscitated in the nineties, died a slow and horrible death in the early 2000’s and then began a more mature cult-like rise again after 2010 (examples: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and Me and  Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) – though not in any way a comedy really if the ending is anything to go by). They could say all this, but that would leave out the parts that make this film so special. Like the scene where Brian tells everyone about bringing a gun to school one day and breaks down in tears. Or the moment we realize just exactly how John’s father treats him by John mimicking how he talks to his son and showing the cigarette burns on his skin. And let’s not forget the reasons for The Breakfast Club being in detention in the first place: Claire skips school to go shopping and her father doesn’t seem to care, whilst her drunken mother fights with her about it. John pulls the fire alarm at school and is responsible for fighting with the teachers and the other students. Andrew bullies another kid and is encouraged by his father to do so. Brian admits to attempting suicide because he is tired of being ignored by everyone. Lastly, Allison the loner is so bored with her life that she volunteers to go to detention because she claims to have had nothing else to do.

Of course besides the heart wrenching elements in the film, the kick-ass soundtrack is also another reason to love this movie, as well as the colour scheme of the cinematography which has that very typical pastel John Hughes ‘hue’ to it making the film visually appealing. And let’s not forget the dance sequences….

Before I get ahead of myself and reveal any more, and I unfortunately imagine I already have, I will end this piece with a plea that we all give The Breakfast Club another watch, or a chance (if you’ve never seen it and should have). There is a universal desire in these kids to not be forgotten, to not be judged on their outward appearance and behaviors, and that is something that we have all felt at some point in our lives and if you haven’t felt that way then you are lying or you live in a bouncy castle filled with unicorns and moonbeams and rainbows. We have all had a Vice Principal Vernon, or someone like him who has made us feel less than. It is with these feelings of inadequacy and an “unsatisfactory home life” that makes the film touch the heart (or this heart of mine at least) and reveals that we can change, and we can also stay the same. It’s all up to us, and it doesn’t matter if we do either. We just have to know that the possibilities are there.

And that is why The Breakfast Club is perfect and always will be…

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