1985, Written/directed by John Hughes, starring Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall & Judd Nealson
The Breakfast Club is one of the best-loved films of all-time. For one reason or another, the 1985 ‘brat pack’ feature has seeped into the public memory. While other ’80s school dramas have died and gone to bargin bin heaven, The Breakfast Club continues to be pushed in luxury Blu-Ray packages. It makes favourite list after favourite list, constantly peddled as a ‘classic’, or a ‘film to see before you die’. While it would probably be worth sliding it in somewhere if you’ve got another 60-odd years to go, if you’re planning on jumping into a river this evening, I wouldn’t go wasting your final few hours on what, in the modern light of day, is little more than a fairly solid teen drama.
The story of five mismatched 17-year-olds who end up friends after a day in detention is, on the upside, refreshingly honest. There is little glorification of high school. It is, as such, feels more in keeping with the view of the characters, rather than an idealist director. The notion that prom queen girl Claire wouldn’t be seen dead with ‘the brain’ Brian is something she acknowledges herself. There’s an understanding of the cliches that certainly goes some way to explaining the passion behind the film. There’s something smarter in the screenplay than found in much of the genre.
However, the films’ main problem is spawned from this. It embraces cliches. Each character slots into a typical teenage ‘group’ (You’ve got your nerd, your jock, your creepy weird girl, etc). The idea is that each one is broken down as we go on, as they slowly discover that, in fact, they are all one and the same. Perhaps it’s an American thing, but I never found myself having to pour my heart out in order to gain an inch of respect from someone with whom I was ‘not compatible’. Ultimately, to me, all the characters did feel cliched. Actually, worse than that, they were unlikeable for most of the film. For me anyway, there must be someone with whom I am willing to invest for me to get drawn into the film. This doesn’t happen. Possibly because it tries to present us with five characters at once, then lets us slowly get to know them all at once. As such, any bond we’ve formed with a character, any investment, only applies to repeat viewings, as we only grow to like them at the end.
It’s hard to hold too much against the film. Partly due to it’s public status, but then credit must be given for the lengthy scene in the final third of the film. The five protagonists sit on the floor. They talk. They talk for 20 minutes. It’s really good. It’s the scene that earns the film it’s public status. It’s the scene that earns the film it’s fancy Blu-Rays. It’s the scene that makes The Breakfast Club one of the best-loved films of all-time, flawed character plotting or otherwise.
6 pieces of unfortunately homophobic ’80s dialogue out of 10