The Breakfast Club – Why it’s my favourite film
Hello and welcome, one and all. First off, I’m more used to writing book reviews than film reviews. Secondly, I don’t possess the easy wit that Owen has honed over the last couple of years. I can, however, use spellcheck, which may make this easier on the eye.
I’ve chosen The Breakfast Club as my favourite film. It was a tough decision, and to be honest it’ll probably be different next week, but here we go.
The Breakfast Club was released in the US on the 15th of February, 1985. There’s a kind of poetry to this, the aftermath of Valentine’s Day in the middle of the eighties. It’s written and directed by Brat Pack patriarch, the late John Hughes. He’s probably best well known for his films about groups of disillusioned, mid-Western teens, but he also directed comedy classic Uncle Buck and wrote all of the official Home Alone films as well as National Lampoon. Not bad for a ‘chick-flick’ writer, right?
Love it or hate it, The Breakfast Club is part of the pop culture reference canon, and so many of you know what the plot is. For the ones who don’t, or think you know but don’t, here’s the rundown.
Five high school kids turn up for a ridiculously early Saturday detention. If I remember rightly, the clock on the wall is something like 7am. It’s a fairly bleak beginning, as the teenagers are admonished by disappointed parents, nearly run over in their haste to get away or simply turn up without parental support. The main cast are referred to numerous times in the film as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. This sums up one of the themes in the film, that of isolation and the need to be popular. Andy and Claire are popular, as the athlete and the princess. More accurately, they’re popular with their friends, who are the popular kids. It raises interesting questions about popularity – does it matter who your friends are?
Brian, the brain, is popular in that he has friends (“demented and sad, but social” J. Bender) but he doesn’t count in high school because his clubs are academic clubs. Allison is silent for a good portion of the movie, but her character hints at a home life which is unsatisfying at best and neglectful at worst. Bender, John, is the branded criminal. He’s known to Vernon, who picks on him throughout the film – with provocation – and generally wreaks havoc in the library. Incidentally, he’s pretty cute too. He’s also probably responsible for Bart Simpson’s most famous phrase, “Eat my shorts”. Which is pretty cool.
The course of the film focuses on the similarities and differences within the group – with or without their peer labels. Each one learns that they are all, in fact, a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Oh, and you also find out one by one what they did to be sentenced to detention.
Although this is entirely set in and around a high school, one of the reasons I still love it is because it’s relevant. I remember being about fifteen when I first watched it, and was blown away by the script, the plot and the way it seemed to be speaking directly to me. When the cast discuss relationships with their parents, I can relate to that. When they rail against tyranny, in the form of teacher Mr Vernon, I’m with them all the way.
The story revolves around the library, as the group attempt to bend the rules of detention enough for a bit of fun. This leads to one of my favourite scenes, where Vernon tries to prop the heavy fire door open with a flimsy chair after Bender removes a screw. When he swaps the hopelessly inadequate chair for a bookcase on wheels, blocking the exit, Bender helpfully advises that he’s endangering the lives of children.
I always think that the way to tell when a film is important is when it lives on in references. Like “Eat my Shorts”, there are hundreds of instances of repeated quotes and scene lifting in films and TV programmes from The Breakfast Club. These range from the predictable Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to a dedicated episode of Dawson’s Creek (helpfully entitled Detention) all the way to a 2009 episode of One Tree Hill. Kevin Smith in particular, references John Hughes’ films in basically every film he’s directed in. In Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob are looking for the fictional Hughes location of Shermer, Illinois, prompting a lengthy dialogue about The Breakfast Club. Well, it’d be more accurately described as a monologue from Jay and a couple of nods from Bob, basically. It did give us the immortal line “Judd Nelson rules”, which couldn’t be more true. In The Breakfast Club, maybe – perhaps not Suddenly Susan.
There are so many other references to the film that I could mention, but aside from the Dogma quote, my other favourite is the dialogue from Go, when the friendly neighbourhood drug dealer re-enacts Bender’s charming opener to the character Claire – “Claire?… Oh, it’s a fat girl’s name…”
It’s actually pretty hard to describe The Breakfast Club without it sounding like an hour and a half of pure navel gazing from a gaggle of whiny teens. It certainly does involve an amount of navel gazing, but there’s also music, dancing, illicit drug taking, romance, comedy and the birth of friendships that may or may not last until Monday. The best advice I can give you, as an old lady? Watch it. If you haven’t seen it already, watch it. If you have, watch it again. In fact, I’m going to go watch it again right now.