On The Breakfast Club

After watching the travesty of Sixteen Candles, I watched The Breakfast Club, also directed by John Hughes, which both feature Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall. Although this was not as bad, it was still terrible.

Maybe worse is that I have had people suggest this garbage to me – dozens and dozens of times – and I simply wasn’t invested before seeing it. It’s terrible. According to Seroword‘s article, “Character Dynamics in The Breakfast Club“:

If you’re like me and are always trying to broaden your film ‘watched list’, The Breakfast Club is definitely the film to add if you already haven’t. Unfortunately, there’s no explosions, car chases, wizards or vampires sparkling, but instead the story of five teenagers serving a Saturday detention. It’s a simple enough storyline to follow, filled with dorky dancing, spitballs, teenage experimenting, rule breaking and heart to hearts. The film opens with a quote from David Bowie to set the overall tone and feeling of the film.

Mr Vernon (the head teacher) sets each of the characters the task of writing ‘who they think they are’ and of course, they spent their day doing everything but that. First though, let’s divulge into the characters that make up the ‘breakfast club’ a little more, and nothing quite represents a character then their lunch.

(John) Bender a.k.a The Criminal:

His best bits include blowing up his locker, briefly setting fire to his shoe and telling Mr Vernon to “eat my shorts”. As the audience, we get to understand a bit of Bender’s back-story which suggests he’s a regular in the detention world and is physically abused by his father. Bender has no lunch – doesn’t really help us much…or does it?

Andrew a.k.a The Athlete:

Andrew is a wrestler that has to wear tights whilst wrestling (“it’s the required uniform”), is a varsity letterman, experiences parental pressure to do well at his sport (don’t we all!) and is more than willing to get into a fight. Andrew has one impressive lunch, containing three separately wrapped sets of sandwiches, a large bag of crisps, a packet of cookies, a large carton of juice and not to forget a banana and an apple.

Claire a.k.a. The Princess:

The best way to really represent Claire is her nickname as the princess – she’s seen as a daddy’s girl who could not get her out of detention but said he would instead make it up to her. Claire’s lunch bag would put a four star restaurant to shame. It contains: a wooden stand, a napkin, chopsticks, soy sauce in a small glass gar and a black box with sushi in – a sandwich and a packet of crisps really is not of value to Claire.

Brian a.k.a. The Brain:

Brian is an anagram of brain and is Brian’s nickname in the film. The film starts off with Brian being told by his mother to find a way to study in detention despite him telling her that they are just meant to “sit there” all day. Brian is part of the Physics, Math and Latin club and referred to as a “parent’s wet dream” from Bender. Bender also describes Brian’s lunch as “a very nutritious lunch, all the food groups are represented” which ultimately highlights the fact that Brian really has it all made for him.

Allison a.k.a. The Basket Case:

Early on in the film, the rest of the club refers to Allison as “she doesn’t talk”, but later we see her more than make up for that. She completes a picture she drew during detention by shaking her dandruff-ridden hair to add snow and is given a make over by Claire, of which Andrew in particular is pleased about. For her lunch she throws the ham from her sandwich on a statue in the library and replaces it with sugar and crisps, which shows just how crazy she really is.

Despite their obvious different personalities (and lunches) and not to mention weird traits, they all bizarrely connect as a group, and that’s what so special about this film. As the audience, you get to see five people that only have one thing in common with each other (that they all did something wrong to get into detention) and leave the school at the end of the day having experienced a day that they will never experience again. They’ll also probably never speak to each other again as they all move on with their lives.

When they do finally remember they have to complete an essay by the end of the day, the responsibility of the task is put to The Brain (Brian) who comes up with the following…

Brian: “Dear Mr Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…”

Andrew: “…and an athlete…”

Allison: “…and a basket case…”

Claire: “…a princess…”

(John) Bender: “…and a criminal…”

Brian: “Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club. “

The film concludes with Bender walking across the school field and pumps his fist in the air with Simple Minds ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ accompanying him. This is a film that should be seen by everyone at least once. Whatever your age at some point you would have been able to relate to at least one of these characters, if not them all at some point of your life.

Basically, this film is all about stereotypes. No depth to character.

According to Roger Ebert:

“The Breakfast Club” begins with an old dramatic standby. You isolate a group of people in a room, you have them talk, and eventually they exchange truths about themselves and come to new understandings. William Saroyan and Eugene O’Neill have been here before, but they used saloons and drunks. “The Breakfast Club” uses a high school library and five teenage kids.

The movie takes place on a Saturday. The five kids have all violated high school rules in one way or another, and they’ve qualified for a special version of detention: all day long, from 8 to 4, in the school library. They arrive at the school one at a time. There’s the arrogant, swaggering tough guy (Judd Nelson). The insecure neurotic (Ally Sheedy) who hides behind her hair and clothes. The jock from the wrestling team (Emilio Estevez). The prom queen (Molly Ringwald). And the class brain (Anthony Michael Hall).

These kids have nothing in common, and they have an aggressive desire not to have anything in common. In ways peculiar to teenagers, who sometimes have a studious disinterest in anything that contradicts their self-image, these kids aren’t even curious about each other. Not at first, anyway. But then the day grows longer and the library grows more oppressive, and finally the tough kid can’t resist picking on the prom queen, and then there is a series of exchanges.

Nothing that happens in “The Breakfast Club” is all that surprising. The truths that are exchanged are more or less predictable, and the kids have fairly standard hang-ups. It comes as no surprise, for example, to learn that the jock’s father is a perfectionist, or that the prom queen’s parents give her material rewards but withhold their love. But “The Breakfast Club” doesn’t need earthshaking revelations; it’s about kids who grow willing to talk to one another, and it has a surprisingly good ear for the way they speak. (Ever notice the way lots of teenage girls, repeating a conversation, say “she goes … rather than “she says…”?)

The movie was written and directed by John Hughes, who also made last year’s “Sixteen Candles.” Two of the stars of that movie (Ringwald and Hall) are back again, and there’s another similarity: Both movies make an honest attempt to create teenagers who might seem plausible to other teenagers. Most Hollywood teenage movies give us underage nymphos or nostalgia-drenched memories of the 1950s.

The performances are wonderful, but then this is an all-star cast, as younger actors go; in addition to Hall and Ringwald from “Sixteen Candles,” there’s Sheedy from “War Games” and Estevez from “Repo Man.” Judd Nelson is not yet as well known, but his character creates the strong center of the film; his aggression is what breaks the silence and knocks over the walls.

The only weaknesses in Hughes’ writing are in the adult characters: The teacher is one-dimensional and one-note, and the janitor is brought onstage with a potted philosophical talk that isn’t really necessary. Typically, the kids don’t pay much attention.


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