The Breakfast Club | rel. 1984 | dir. John Hughes
The Breakfast Club is often hailed as the greatest high school movie ever made. When I realized that I was one of the very few high school students who had not yet witnessed the pure brilliance of this John Hughes classic, I felt a little left out. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Before I delve into my opinion of this film, I want to discuss my experience as a high school student thus far. I attend a suburban high school with a lovely campus, much like the setting of The Breakfast Club. My high school has its share of nerds, jocks, cheerleaders, preps, and some others who would fall into the misc. category. But people kind of just mind their own business at my school. There is a lot of cross-pollination going on at my school. One can have brains and be involved in a lot of social activities. Nerds can be fantastic athletes. People have a choice to make friends or be a loner. I don't know if I'm just extraordinarily lucky or not, but I go to a pretty accepting school. People know each other and generally treat each other with respect. If a cheerleader were to speak to a nerd, it would not tarnish either party's social record.
Everyone is a little bit of everything around here.
I think one of the advantages of attending a fairly liberal school is that stereotyping is pretty minor and kept at an inoffensive distance. Perhaps that creates a more friendlier, less conflicted environment. Teachers are more aloof. Students choose to light up away from the school. Complete and total rebellion is kept at a minimum.
(I bet if several of my friends read this, they would give me the look the average middle-class person would give to President George W. Bush whenever he insists that America's economy is strong. But it's all about generalities and perspectives, my friends.)
Because of my experience (or lack thereof) as a teenager and high school student, I could not relate to or care for The Breakfast Club. I guess the most plausible explanation is that the film is simply dated. It has elements of the eighties glossed all over it--the fashion, the music, the hairstyles, etc. Then again, I love the eighties, so that couldn't have been a factor in my dislike of the film. But isn't stereotyping supposed to be a timeless message? Of course it is. Even if it doesn't happen at my school, I'm sure it happens in other schools. But I don't think Hughes executed his message about destroying the concept of stereotypes at all. In the end, I was completely lost in Hughes's mixed message about the world called high school.
The Breakfast Club centers around five teenagers who show up for a day-long detention at the school library: the brain (Anthony Michael Hall), the athlete (Emilio Estevez), the basket case (Ally Sheedy), the princess (Molly Ringwald), and the criminal (Judd Nelson). At first, they can't stand each other; conflicts are created. But little by little, they reach over their comfort zones, start talking each other and realize they have more in common than they initially thought.
All this felt forced and rather dull. The conversations aren't engaging and the characters aren't at all likable. I can't blame the performances--the young actors are quite good--but the characters definitely feel underdeveloped. Hughes is an interesting storyteller and creates somewhat authentic characters, but something is missing in his dialogue. Something doesn't ring true. So even though it might seem like it sometimes, no one is ever black and white. Okay, I get it... Then why couldn't these characters look each other in the eye before?
Apart being branded with their stereotypes, how do these kids really feel about the people they associate with everyday who are also branded with a similar stereotype? How do they feel about being part of such a group? Perhaps all my answers are answered somewhere in the film, but everything seems to be muzzled by excessive, annoying, and hard-to-relate to whining. Hughes doesn't really create a world for the high school, which makes his smaller world between these five teens harder to believe.
A major problem I have with the film is the ending. Comfort zones are broken down. Characters are changed. But do they change for the better? Do they finally accept who they are? Why must one of the characters change completely just so she could be accepted and loved by another character? (Yes, I'm referring to Sheedy's character.) Sure, I can understand how The Breakfast Club is a teen classic (Nostalgia? Maybe.), but it is nowhere close to one of the best high school movies ever. The film contradicts itself too much and lacks the truest emotions and wonders of being at such an interesting and sometimes difficult age.
I will be re-watching this film as a companion piece to The Catcher in the Rye in my English class some time during the spring semester. So yes, this film will be re-reviewed to see if my feelings toward this film have been changed or not.