The Good: Decent acting, Great character studies
The Bad: Boring plot, Moments that pull focus/melodramatic aspects.
The Basics: The Breakfast Club is rightfully an original and a classic, but it is not as tight or compelling when viewed objectively.
On Thanksgiving Eve, my wife’s family arrived and I was suddenly conscripted to find a copy of The Breakfast Club. For some reason, they were obsessing on seeing The Breakfast Club as soon as they arrived and, after making the popcorn, I hunted down a copy at a local video rental chain. I had only seen The Breakfast Club once, back in the day . . . in the ‘80’s. The Breakfast Club is one of the quintessential 1980’s film and after watching it with them, I felt somewhat jaded. The Breakfast Club was good, but despite admiring the level of character explored throughout it, it is not as tight or interesting a film as many people made it out to me for the last twenty years.
The Breakfast Club is like Twelve Angry Men, but without a point. Twelve Angry Men is a taut character study that explores a jury and how people’s ideas and backstories influence their interpretation of facts in a case as they deliberate. The Breakfast Club does not actually have a set purpose, it is about an experience and, perhaps it is my distance from high school, but it is not even a terribly interesting shared experience.
Andrew, Brian, Bender (John), Claire, and Allison are sentenced to a Saturday detention at Shermer High School where they are at the mercy of Vice Principal Richard Vernon. Andrew is a jock with a strong sense of ethics, Brian is a quiet, brainy kid, and Claire is the archetypal prom queen and daddy’s girl. John Bender is an angry outsider and Allison starts as a weird, quiet girl whose only clear trait is that she steals whatever is within arm’s reach. After Vernon locks them in and assigns them to write an essay about who each of them is, John removes a screw from the door, which allows them to have a bit of privacy.
Without being under the close guard of Vernon, the five students talk with one another and bond over their youthful, angst and traumas.
The Breakfast Club is basically five young people sitting around and talking with one another. The whole movie is essentially a slow character study that illustrates how each of the young people lowers their barriers. Or, at times, it’s a stupid exploration of teen peer pressure where a bunch of people who claim to be individuals who are from all sorts of different walks of life sit around bitching about their parents and smoking pot.
The characters, outside voiding all sense of originality and independence from one another by doing all the same things as one another for the day, are interesting and well developed. Writer and director John Hughes has a strong sense of psychological motivation and he seems to understand that most young people are damaged by expectations placed on them by their parents. That works in The Breakfast Club and while Judd Nelson’s John Bender dominates most of the beginning of the film, all of the characters have a chance to present their voice and the film even digresses to have Vernon and the janitor, Carl, have some moments together.
The acting in The Breakfast Club is good from the mostly-young cast. In fact, there was only one moment when Molly Ringwald’s performance seems melodramatic and over the top. The rest of the time, cast members like Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall (Brian) and especially Emilio Estevez portray their “types” exceptionally well. Estevez is a convincing jock and Hall plays the quiet, self-tormented overachiever quite proficiently. Ally Sheedy does weird wonderfully (probably how she ended up with the recurring gig on Psych!) and Molly Ringwald is the embodiment of the archetype of the teen princess.
But, despite some wonderful lines and understanding better a few more references than I recalled from the first time I saw it, The Breakfast Club left me feeling bored. I waited for any of the students to follow their own dreams and ambitions instead of just falling in line with whatever one of the two Alphas (or Claire using her sex appeal, as she does on Brian near the film’s end) demands. The Breakfast Club is good, but it is far more meaningful to those who has a strong nostalgia for high school in the 1980s. That’s just not me.
For other works with Anthony Michael Hall, check out my reviews of:
The Dark Knight
For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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