The Breakfast Club (John Hughes)

(No star rating given)

Though the number of students serving Saturday jug each week is far from minuscule, as Dean-of-Students Tim Kerr would certainly testify, there remain a large number who have never experienced the thrill of spending a Saturday morning in Bellarmine's hallowed halls. Those who have missed out would do well to see The Breakfast Club, the most recent work of writer/director John Hughes, whose previous film credits include National Lampoon's Vacation and Sixteen Candles[1]. But be forewarned: Saturday, March 24 at Shermer High School is no ordinary detention.

Rarely can the entire plot of a film be summed up as concisely as that of The Breakfast Club[2]. Five stereotypes are united in the Shermer High library for a nine-hour detention period: a brain, a jock, a princess, a basket case, and a criminal, according to promotional advertisements. Their mission: to write a one-thousand word composition describing who they think they are. Fortunately for the audience, most of them never find the time to do any writing. Instead, the rest of the movie revolves around the breaking down of barriers as the kids slowly develop a friendship of sorts and each one is coerced into revealing a side of themselves that they would have preferred to remain unknown. Eventually, a kind of group therapy evolves, reminiscent of The Big Chill[3].

Happily, The Breakfast Club is blessed with a talented and creative young cast. Emilio Estevez (last seen in 1984's cult classic, Repo Man) is the athlete constantly pressured by his father to be a winner. Sixteen Candles' Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall are reunited as "Miss Popular" and the 4.0 student, respectively. Particularly impressive are Judd Nelson as the juvenile delinquent, used as the catalyst for the story, and Ally Sheedy, in a complete reversal from her vacuous performance in WarGames, as the recluse. All are adept at breaking away from the traditional stereotypes of high school students that have developed in most teenage exploitation films for the past few years.

However, the movie's greatest attribute is the writing of John Hughes, an adult with an uncanny ability to stay abreast of current teenage slang and mannerisms, employing them sometimes to the point of saturation. Unlike many of the teen-oriented movies being released nowadays, The Breakfast Club is not a creation designed to rake in big bucks from the enormous teenage market[4]. Hughes allows his characters to discuss many of the difficulties facing adolescents, including parental expectations, peer pressure, teenage suicide, and alienation, while keeping the film comedic for much of its ninety minutes. Although the film has been criticized by some for attempting to mix comedy with serious soul-searching moments, the lighter scenes in the beginning make the characters appear more realistic and likeable. Thus, when they become contemplative and serious later in the film, it is easier to accept them[5].

This is not to say that The Breakfast Club is flawless, however. Some of the dramatic tearjerker scenes do not work as intended, which is at least partially due to the addition of cloying, syrupy background music which warns the audience that a "tragic tale of woe" is about to be told. Additionally, because the film can only show one-and-a-half of the detention period's nine hours, relationships between the characters seem to develop a bit too quickly. In spite of these problems, The Breakfast Club is an impressive film which succeeds in helping teenagers to take a more honest look at themselves.

[1] You may recall that there was briefly reason to believe that Hughes might be a respectable auteur. In hindsight, the very notion seems ludicrous. My review makes it sound as if he directed National Lampoon's Vacation, when in fact he was only the screenwriter.

[2] I could not, at that time, anticipate the likes of Twister.

[3] ...which I hadn't yet seen at that time. I'd just read elsewhere of the similarity. I still do that occasionally, to be brutally honest...

[4] [Your gales of laughter at my naïveté here]

[5] Because, as we all know, characters are only "realistic" when they're being funny. Huh?