THE BREAKFAST CLUB - Golden Oldies On the Big Screen
THE BREAKFAST CLUB
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: Of all the teen flicks churned out by John Hughes, ‘The Breakfast Club’ is generally cited as his seminal work, idiotically rated R at the time of its initial release … though I doubt if that kept many teens from going to it. As Fathom Events gets up and running for the first time since the pandemic shut things down in March, one of its first national limited-release films is this one, to be screened on Sunday, Sept. 20; Monday, Sept. 21; and Tuesday, Sept. 22 in various local Cinemark and Megaplex theaters. This review was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 15, 1985.
Writer-director John Hughes seems to be single-handedly raising public consciousness about teenagers. While all around him filmmakers portray adolescents as sex-hungry jerks who play vulgar practical jokes on each other, Hughes depicts teens as sensitive, rounded human beings. Radical, to say the least.
Hughes’ “Sixteen Candles” last year had its problems, most of which seemed to be commercial concessions, but the film was respectful of its teenage characters. And he even cast real teenagers in the roles.
The biggest obstacle to Hughes’ latest film, “The Breakfast Club,” may be its being mistaken for just another raunchy teenage comedy, since the ad campaign seems to suggest that, and it is surrounded by such other current releases as “Mischief,” “Heaven Help Us” and “Vision Quest.”
From left, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy (sitting), Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Michael Anthony Hall, 'The Breakfast Club' (1985)
But “The Breakfast Club” is unique. The story idea is not new, putting five people from different social strata in one room for a day and observing their fights, arguing, mellowing out and eventually gaining respect for one another. But Hughes has taken this basic idea out of the Army camp, the barroom and the jail cell, and put it in a high school.
His five very different people are teenagers, all condemned to a day of detention — a Saturday. And the result is a perceptive, occasionally piercing look at parent-child relationships.
True, the film is rather static; true, the individual characters’ stories occasionally seem too obvious, too contrived, or too pat; and true, the film’s universality may only be felt in fits and starts for some audiences.
But there are enough redeeming truths here, and more than enough excellent performances, to suggest this is a film from which teen audiences might benefit. And I might go one more step and suggest parents see it with their teens, then discuss some of the issues it raises.
(The R rating here is exclusively for language, which, admittedly, gets rather coarse from time to time — but nothing kids don’t hear in school. Yes, even Utah kids.)
As “The Breakfast Club” opens, four of the five are dropped off at school on Saturday morning by their parents (one walks there himself). This is the only physical glimpse we get of any parents, though their presence is felt throughout the film.
The five kids are the rich princess (Molly Ringwald), the intellectual geek (Michael Anthony Hall), the macho jerk (Emilio Estevez), the hoodlum who’s smarter than he lets on (Judd Nelson) and the weirdo with no friends (Ally Sheedy). And where Hughes occasionally lets his writing seem more like writing than real conversation, he is helped by the five actors, all of whom give consummate performances in true ensemble style.
They nearly all dislike one another upon their initial meeting, then they gradually, reluctantly, come together as they unite in their resentment of the teacher in charge of their detention, well-played by Paul Gleason but written in an extremely one-dimensional way. (The only other prominent adult is John Kapelos as a philosophizing janitor, a gimmick that is a bit too cute.)
By the end they have psychoanalyzed each other and themselves, and the movie finishes on a note of realism that comes rather unexpectedly at the end of the lengthy confessional scene — the film’s best sequence.
“The Breakfast Club” is a remarkably refreshing little teenage film that is like an oasis in the current sea of ridiculous, idiotic teen comedies that dominate local movie theaters.
And the R rating seems a bit harsh. A PG-13 might be more palatable, indicating that the teenagers who can best appreciate this film should more easily be able to get in.