THE BREAKFAST CLUB, 1985
Cast: Judd Nelson, Emelio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Paul Gleason, John Kapelos
It's the weekend, and five students have weekend detention. There's a jock, a princess, a misfit, a nerd, and a lout. Not much in common, except for having to give up their day, sit in the school library, and write an essay for the principal. Being from such widely different backgrounds and having such completely different personalities, it's inevitable that some frictions and shenanigans develop. Especially when the principal leaves the room...
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Why does this film work?
In conventional standards it's not supposed to. A 90 minute film with only one location about people talking about their feelings! No action. No special effects. No twists. No crime scenes. No evil characters. Just a film about human beings being human beings.
As of this writing it's been 26 years since The Breakfast Club came out in theaters and this film isn't dated at all. And it won't be dated 26 years from now. This is one of those films my kid's kids will watch when they are teenagers.
The world evolves and people change from generation to generation drastically, but most of the time emotions stay the same. When you're a teenager you tend to feel the same kind of things no matter if you're from the horse and buggy generation or the text message generation. It's a time when your body is changing and you think what this whole life thing is all about. The pressures we feel are simplistic in hindsight, but they are really anxiety ridden when you're living in that particular moment.
The Breakfast Club is a brilliant film because it's so simple. The rebel, the brain, the jock, the princess, and the loner are joined together one day in a Saturday afternoon detention and learn that they are pretty much the same people with the same worries. Neither of them would talk to each other if it wasn't for these circumstances. But when they do they see that their emotions are the same and none of them are really bad people.
Perhaps we should have a detention for some of our world powers of today. The United States, Iraq, China, Venezuela, and India are forced to spend a day in solitary without any other influences. Maybe they would all see how similar they are and how our perceptions really force us to feel and do things because it's what we think is best. But there really isn't any context to those motivations. And around and around we go.
I was first introduced to The Breakfast Club when I was 12 years old and my family was visiting my father's old college roommate in Tucson, Arizona. We were staying at there home and the 16 year old son was a bit of a scary guy. He was in that badass rebellion stage and was a hard guy to talk to. The interaction with us came with this film as he would watch it over and over again. He connected to the character Judd Nelson played as he was very much like him. So I watched the film with him. And then watched it again. And watched it again. Three times in a row we saw it without a break. I was seeing my future on screen and right beside me. I felt relieved as I thought that there was no way I was going to end up like these people as I would talk about everything with my friends and be open and honest.
Of course 4 years later I was in the same position. I was caught in my own insecurities and feeling like the world was against me. And I forgot that The Breakfast Club existed and I wished I didn't because I really could of used it at the time.
The art of the screenplay by John Hughes is that we don't relate to just one character. We really all relate to everyone of them. So if you were a jock or nerd growing up you still related to the criminal. That's really the point of the movie. We are all these people and the simple labels we give each other is really nonsense. A lesser script would attempt at the same themes while they label these characters because that's the easier thing to do. Or the most conscience thing for someone to do. Hughes was a master at setting up conventions for his characters and then spending the next 90 minutes tearing them all down.
And that's why this movie succeeds. It's brave and it's vulnerable. It shows us real people in real situations. And if you think about it that's a pretty rare thing. In your head think about the last TV shows and movies you've watched. Some are probably very good, but the way storytelling is done these days doesn't have to do with real at all. Everything is about extraordinary. And sometimes in order for us to actually be extraordinary in our own lives, we need to watch and read real stories.
The Breakfast Club has got it all. And you wonder why they don't make more of these. Maybe I need to start to myself.