Reviewing a Classic: The Breakfast Club

Here is my second installment of my class reviews. Not everything we watch in class is recent. Sometimes it’s hard to get a handle on criticizing a film that has been around for a while and that people have such strong feelings for already. Luckily, it’s not hard to write about The Breakfast Club. (I recently nabbed this cult classic at Target for $7.50. It’s a must have for any movie buff.)

Here’s a clip from the film…

Few films have the capacity to define a generation in a way that John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club (1985) has. More importantly, the film still resonates with audiences nearly thirty years later. In theory, the film could have been a talking heads scenario with its extensive use of medium shots, but there is an insuppressible liveliness throughout the entire story. Trapped in a school library for detention—a stew room for sexual tension and broiling honesty—six teens spend their Saturday confronting the weight of expectations and themselves.

The principle characters begin as stereotypes. Together the cast’s performances and writer/director John Hughes’ dialogue cocoons these characters in a tangible reality. Molly Ringwald’s performance as Claire still stands as one of the most powerful Queen Bees of high school dramas; her authority comes from her vulnerability as much as from her icy reserve. Just as Judd Nelson as John Bender will forever rule as King of teen rebellion because we see his private turmoil. It is telling that audiences remember the actors of The Breakfast Club first and the names of their characters second. Emilio Estevez is Andrew Clark. Anthony Michael Hall is Brian Johnson. Ally Sheedy is Allison Reynolds. Audiences want to believe that these individuals were not acting and that these roles represent a quintessential part of their being.

The Breakfast Club is still relevant for teens today as it deals with issues of gay shaming, cliques, and drug use. At its core, the film is about confronting each other’s faults. Imagine the ensemble cast as a cracked mirror and each character only has one piece of the truth. Little by little they reassemble the mirror so each can catch a glimpse of who they really are. It’s a film where using the word “fuck” is the great equalizer and everyone is angry or scared about their past, present, and future. Yet their time in the library unifies them, at least temporarily, and as Bender pumps his fist in the air, you feel an overwhelming sense of success and hope. That hope is what makes The Breakfast Club a cult classic and makes the film infinitely watchable, even today.

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