As I go to pop ‘The Breakfast Club’ into the DVD player once again, I examine the cover; Empire magazine describes this as “THE DEFINITIVE 80s TEEN MOVIE”. They’re right, this is the standout cult classic from such an iconic era of filmmaking. Amongst the genre of coming-of-age teen comedy/drama, there are few films that can rival the appeal of ‘The Breakfast Club’ even today. Everyone has heard of ‘The Breakfast Club’, you’ve all seen the image of Judd Nelson punching the air in the closing scenes, or Anthony Michael Hall taking a drag on his first joint. This is a film which shaped the youth of the 80s, a film which addresses subcultures, identity and the importance of substance over appearance; a delightful message to transmit to a rebellious generation.
The plot is so simple, yet original, rich and very powerful. For a film which is framed mostly within one classroom, and which certainly never leaves the confines of the school grounds, it is refreshing to witness such a deep, meaningful journey for the five protagonists. Forced to endure Saturday morning detention for their various ‘crimes’, is a diverse mix of students; the jock, the brain, the criminal, the princess and the kook. A group of teens who would ordinarily ignore each other on the school corridor, or worse, mock and humiliate. The kids are ordered by the detestable Mr Vernon (Paul Gleeson) to write an essay addressing the question “Who are you?”, underlining the social message buried within the film. Having learned their lesson, the detainees unite in their battle against their oppressor to become friends, at least in secret, and eventually pair up in the most unlikely of fashions.
Molly Ringwald plays the bratty, prom queen Claire, in a role which should have led to a glittering career. Unfortunately this didn’t quite work out, despite Ringwald actually delivering some really impressive, emotional scenes. Judd Nelson, the guy who looks at least 30 years old at the time of filming, is the teenage bad-boy who doesn’t give a shit about anything. Or does he? Nelson portrays the cruel, cynical John Bender rather perfectly. Not only is he responsible for some excellent monologue but also gives birth to the phrase “eat my shorts”. You’re welcome Bart. As the cringe-worthy jock Andy, Emilio Estevez is guilty of the most uncomfortable moments in the film. From his odd running/dance scene culminating in the breaking of a glass door, to his own little speech about his difficult family, he comes across as awkward and false rather than upholding the poignant tone already in place. The star of the show for me is the geeky Brian, played by Anthony Michael Hall, who is endearing throughout and probably the funniest, most genuine character of the whole bunch. Completing the group is Ally Sheedy, who nails the depiction of a messed up, introverted weirdo, with very convincing animalistic behaviour.
The musical accompaniment to ‘The Breakfast Club’ is fantastic, most notably the Simple Minds track ‘Don’t You’, a classic tune which you may recognise from the ‘Pitch Perfect’ finale. The use of music is good, but not half as effective as some of the moments of silent awkwardness and tension in the detention hall. Arguably, the best and most iconic scenes of the film arrive when the teens really let loose and get stoned together, one which is pivotal, without turning the film into one of the tired ‘teens-get-high-together-and-social-balance-is-restored’ genre. As they open up to one another and start to be unflinchingly honest, the tone of the film drops into rather emotional, dark territory before the uplifting atmosphere returns with abundance and crazy dance moves.
Director John Hughes throws in plenty of cheesy montage sequences, poetic moral speeches and predictable gag scenes full of slapstick humour, fulfilling all the generic requirements you expect from a film like this. But aside from all of the above, the intense focus on themes of family, sex, drugs and the future, highlight all the things that matter to teenagers, showing that ‘The Breakfast Club’ is expertly created to hit the target audience. If you are one of the few people who haven’t had the pleasure of watching this film, I ask “WHY!?” and implore you to change that as soon as possible. Whether you’re an 80s rebel wanting to revisit the fun of your youth, or a modern day hedonist seeking inspiration, ‘The Breakfast Club’ is one of those must-see movies that everyone should watch again and again.
DIRECTOR: JOHN HUGHES
STARRING: MOLLY RINGWALD, EMILIO ESTEVEZ, ANTHONY MICHAEL HALL, JUDD NELSON, ALLY SHEEDY