Nat thought – hands down the best American high school film ever.
I had dinner with a somewhat younger friend a couple of weeks ago and somehow it came up that not only had she never seen 1984’s The Breakfast Club, but she’d never heard of the master of teen angst himself, John Hughes. What the what??!! I picked myself up off the floor, assured the waiter I was fine, and began to wonder – was this finally undeniable proof that I’m an old fart?
Well, hang on. She’s only ten years younger than me, which means her teens were in the 90’s, not the noughties or whatever they’re calling this decade. So it can’t be our not-so-huge-after-all age gap. I do remember her once saying she spent quite a bit of her youth in Siberia (like, the actual Siberia) so maybe Siberian youth were filling their teen years with pursuits more akin to survival, like shoveling snow and sowing fields, rather than the frivolous entertainments of American cinema. Or maybe John Hughes was just not that high on the Russian Communist Party’s ‘must watch’ list. No matter. Allow me to resolve this lapse in Soviet education. Viktorinska – this is for you.
The Breakfast Club is a masterclass in how to write an American high school movie. It is simply the best American teen movie ever. That’s it. Done. Finished. They should have made it law that there was never to be another high school movie made following this one. You may at this stage be protesting “but what about Clueless, Heathers, Say Anything, Mean Girls, Superbad, Dazed and Confused etc etc” – we could quite easily go on all day couldn’t we? What about them indeed. OK, some of them are great movies, but all of them owe a debt to John Hughes (hell, even Bart Simpson owes The Breakfast Club, but I’ll see if you’re paying attention and can spot that one yourself).
Any teen film with the outsiders as the heroes, the meany cool-kid-clique being meanies, the parents as oppressors who just don’t understand them, the geeks triumphing in the end… John Hughes did it best. And The Breakfast Club is where it all began.
What sets The Breakfast Club apart is that it’s not a screwball, tits-and-bum sex comedy that many teen films of that time were, like Revenge of the Nerds, Meatballs and Porky’s. The Breakfast Club finally treated the kids and their issues seriously. What’s more, the themes it explores -fitting in, who you are, who you’re going to be – are still something kids today can watch and relate to. Some of the fashion and hairstyle might be outdated, but nothing else about The Breakfast Club is. Then again, even fashion revolves. Judd Nelson’s flannelette shirt made a comeback and was seemingly in every London high street last year. (I even blogged about that here if you’re interested)
So in a nutshell, The Breakfast Club is about five kids who reluctantly (naturally) meet for a Saturday detention in the school library. It’s almost exclusively set in the one room and is purely dialogue driven, albeit with one daggy/cool dance sequence toward the end, just to give us all something to emulate at frat parties when we’ve had too many beer bombs. But over eight hours they discover they are each much more than the labels their school and society have already slapped on them.
Molly Ringwald is Claire – The Princess
Judd Nelson is Bender – The Criminal
Emilio Estevez is Andrew – The Athlete
Nice knee patch mate.
Ally Sheedy is Allison – The Basket Case
And Anthony Michael Hall is Brian – The Brain
Not that you could tell by that shot…
As always with John Hughes, the music plays a big part in this film and a whole generation of old farts like me can’t hear Simple Minds’ ‘Don’t you forget about me‘ without thinking of this film and Bender raising his fist as he walks across the football field (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler).
Talk of a sequel comes up every few years, but come on, you don’t mess with perfection people. Besides, it would be sacrilege for anyone but John Hughes to write it and he tragically died in 2009. But apart from that, and maybe this is a better argument, here’s what The Breakfast Club look like today…
Molly Ringwald –
Eeeek. OK, that’s not fair, he might have been in costume for a Tim Burton biopic or something. He’s more like this.
Bit ‘Tom Selleck’ isn’t he?
Emilio Estevez –
And Anthony Michael Hall –
Can you believe the little skinny guy turned out like that? Well, I’m sort of cheating. That was probably a few years ago. But still. Here he is now.
Yeah… best just to let the classics lie, right?