How much of you is who you are
And how much how you’re seen?
We like to think we’re unconstrained
By powers over us ordained
That keep us quelled or entertained.
We break the mold; we think anew
(At least I like to think I do),
And yet we linger in routine.
As independent as we are,
Our views are molded like the rest.
Your parents, teachers, habits, friends,
And daily life in all its trends
Have fashioned you. How much depends
On how well you can recognize
The truth among the many lies.
There’s more of both than most have guessed.
MPAA rating: R (for frequent language)
I’ve caught John Hughes’ classic teen drama The Breakfast Club on TV several times over the years, but only recently watched it from the beginning. As great a film as it is, I’ve got to say that I wasn’t missing much. The first half hour sets up the plot, of course, settling five diverse high school archetypes into a grumpy Saturday morning detention under the strict but ineffectual eye of Vice Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason). We get to meet Andy the jock (Emilio Estevez), Brian the nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), Claire the popular girl (Molly Ringwald), John Bender the rebel (Judd Nelson), and Allison the “basket case” (Ally Sheedy). Aside from some reinforcing of their character traits, such as Ally Sheedy’s bizarre breakfast sandwich, the beginning of the film is limited to prickly exchanges between Bender and Vernon and everyone generally not getting along. It’s after Vernon leaves the quintet to themselves that the film becomes the classic it’s known as, and that’s about when I’ve typically tuned in in the past, not intentionally, just by chance, I guess.
Hughes’s script so humanizes these teenagers and makes them so relatable that their interactions are some of the most memorable conversations put to film. Everyone will relate to at least one of these characters and their teenage pressures. Perhaps it’s the parental stress placed on Andy over sports or Brian over his grades; perhaps it’s the peer pressure put on Claire by her friends and the need to remain popular; perhaps it’s the dysfunctional home life that Bender rages over yet accepts. It’s probably not Allison’s “nothing better to do” mentality, but even her wildcard status and embraced weirdness have their source in a painfully common family fault. (For the record, though, I do get along with my parents. No lie.) Every discussion feels natural and holds some discerning truth, even the grumbling of Vernon as he complains about the kids to the janitor. Mingled among these dialogues are some classic ’80s moments of fun: the students running through the halls to avoid Vernon, the awesomely classic dancing scene in the library, the final monologue set to Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”
Oh, boy. Starting this review, I fully intended to rank The Breakfast Club as a List Runner-Up simply because I’ve never considered it one of my favorite films, but, as has happened a couple other times, expounding on all of its strengths has made me second-guess myself. It’s a quotable ’80s classic through and through, one that will fill that generation with nostalgia but still appeal to this generation with its universal themes of teen angst and resenting stereotypes. Even if the beginning pales next to the second half, it’s certainly List-Worthy. How can I give it any other score?
Best line: (Andy) “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”
© 2016 S.G. Liput
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