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The Breakfast Club
1985 - R - 97 Mins.
Director: John Hughes
Producer: John Hughes
Written By: John Hughes
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Paul Gleason
Review by: John Ulmer
   
Parents have never understood the youth of the world. Elvis used to be evil. Now he's too tame for modern music enthusiasts. Just imagine how tame Eminem will seem years from now. And as a scarier thought, who (or what) could be worse than some of the singers on today's market?

The thing that separates John Hughes from most filmmakers, and the reason that his films continue to impress teenagers to this very day, is the honest outlook on youth that it portrays. I saw twenty minutes of "The Breakfast Club" with my parents once a while ago and they made me turn it off out of disgust. They thought it was stupid, that it made the jerk of the film look like a "cool guy," and made parent-hating a normal thing.

But this is what all teenagers go through. At one time or another, all teens hate their parents and feel like outcasts. John Hughes is locked in a time capsule, still bearing the mind of a teenager, and he is able to tap into these feelings of teenage angst. That is what separates "The Breakfast Club" from, say, "The New Guy," or one of those other stupid teen films of recent years.

And the jerk, played by Judd Nelson, isn't meant to be cool. He is a jerk, and if older viewers took the time to pay attention to the film, they would perhaps realize that the point of the film, from the very beginning, is to establish that this so-called jerk is only acting like one to get attention. Because he is obviously shunned at home. He's an outcast. And unlike other films that refuse to establish their characters, "The Breakfast Club" introduces him as a jerk, and proceeds to explain why he is that way. This is what makes this movie tick.

I knew a kid like Bender (Nelson) once when I was in school, and generations of kids continue to go through the exact same things. Once they reach a certain age, though, it seems as though all adults suddenly break away from the teenage emotions. John Hughes never did, I guess. (Although he certainly tapped into adult behavior with his best film, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" [1987], a welcome introduction to Hughes' adult comedy, hinted at in "Vacation" [1981], which he wrote.)

The film opens with a quote from David Bowie that just about sums the entire film up. We are introduced to five kids spending eight hours of detention at Shermer High School in Illinois. They are: Andrew the Jock (Emilio Estevez), Brian the Nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), Bender the Criminal (Judd Nelson), Claire the Princess (Molly Ringwald), and Allison the Basketcase (Ally Sheedy). They are looked over by the school principal (Paul Gleason), who assigns them the task of writing a report on why they are here in detention and what they did to get there.

To say that the outcome is predictable is an understatement. We know who’s going to get together with whom from the beginning, but getting there's all the fun. Watching the characters come to appreciate their differences and learn that they're more than just billboard examples of angry teenagers is more than half the fun.

Teenagers are not as unaware of who they are as some people always think. John Hughes knew this, and deliberately tapped into this state of mind as no other director has done before -- or since, for that matter. Sure, they've tried. (Hughes' "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was just about the only other film that tried to show teenagers as something more than stupid hormone-crazy rambunctious adolescents, but as young adults who were trying to grow up fast -- the scene where Ferris and Sloane pretend their water is wine is good evidence of this.)

Hughes' teenage characters were not the clichés they are now when "The Breakfast Club" came out in 1985 -- this film has proved to be the steeple of teen clichés (many of them poked fun at in "Not Another Teen Movie," which features a cameo by Ringwald). Think of "2001" or "Halloween" -- the drifting spaceships and psycho killers chasing sex-hungry teenagers is now routine, but it wasn't then. The Jock, The Nerd, The Criminal, The Princess, and The Basketcase weren't clichéd back then, either -- although Hughes purposely chose these references to the characters in order to let Brian, The Nerd, say that they were more than just that in the beginning of the film when he's reading his essay in voice-over narrative.

I seriously doubt whether this film is any better than the work of Coppola, Cortiz, Kurosawa, Scorsese, Welles, et al. If I were assembling a list of "the greatest movies ever made," I'd never include this.

But sometimes the greatest films aren't just the films that are technically perfect, but those that connect to you on one level or another. I know that my all-time favorite comedy ("Planes, Trains and Automobiles") may not be considered better than something such as "Some Like it Hot," but that film doesn't affect me the same way. I either don't connect with the story, the characters, the feelings, or I just don't appreciate the film as a whole. I appreciate "The Breakfast Club" in many ways, and for that reason it will always be considered one of my favorite films. Even if it is kinda sappy.
 
Movie Guru Rating
A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic. A masterpiece.  An Essential film.  A classic.
  5 out of 5 stars

 
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