Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place."

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.

Rating: 6/10

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.

9 comments:

  1. Marcy---I wholeheartedly agree that this film is overrated. I too have problems with what they do to Sheedy's character. I thought she was just fine before. She's cute and shy and totally herself. I also really don't like the ending. I understand they are breaking these stereotypes but it's way to cliche and bleh.

    Where the films charm is for me though is in the scenes where they are just talking. Especially in Judd Nelson and his performance. When the principle is giving him detention and he keeps getting more and more, it's funny and engaging because it really brings us into the character without blatantly saying what this character represents.

    You are right as well though about some of the contrived dialogue and forced moments. It doesn't always work. I would definitely choose some of Hughes' other films over this (i.e. Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, or Sixteen Candles).

    I think the film resonates definitely through the nostalgia factor, but neither you nor I can totally relate as those who were teenagers at this time.

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  2. Shawn, I kind of hate the ending. It's not just cliched, it's ridiculous. (SPOILERS) I don't think it's just the change Sheedy's character (Allison) goes through that irks me, but it's also the relationships that are created between Allison/Andrew and Bender/Claire. Both relationships are completely forced.

    Andrew seemed concerned for Allison in the beginning, but by the end of the day, it seemed like he fell for her because of the makeover. As for Bender and Claire, I would have preferred that they simply became friends because Bender--although he does show that he has a heart--was a total jerk to her earlier. I don't think anyone recovers that fast.

    I liked all the performances by the young actors, but I agree--Nelson was the standout. Then again, he got to play the most complex and best-written character in the film.

    I should give Hughes another chance since I really liked Ferris Bueller's Day Off. But it's nice to hear that I'm not alone when it comes to The Breakfast Club :)

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  3. Good review Marcy, havent seen the film, but I also heard it was a great high school movie. I usually tend to enjoy most of John Hugh's films.

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  4. Thanks Farzan.

    I haven't seen many of the films Hughes directed, but I have seen a lot of the films he has written. Lately, his resume has not been impressive.

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  5. Breakfast Club is like a club sandwich, but with a thick layer of cheese. It has its own inimitable 80s' charm, and to watch it now is to take it out of context. Best just to enjoy the cheese, like the club sandwich.

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  7. Wow...perhaps it is because I was a teen right after this movie was made, but man it was right on the money for my high school experience. It really speaks for how things were to be a teen when I was in the late 80s/early 90s. Have things really changed that drastically since then? Perhaps so. But for me, my teenage experience, and my nostaglic heart, The Breakfast Club is THE MOVIE of my teen angst generation.

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  8. This movie is like awesome. When Sheedy changes it her coming out of her shell, before she was kind of wierd and awkward, she has no friends, thats all because she was shy. When she got a make over, the guy could see her without the big poofy hair, and even BEFORE themakeover he was starting to fall for her. The rich girl and the bad guy...i don't know about THAT relationship but it showed that they both had their problems, and stuff. I think you guys are really crazy to rate this movie a 6 out of 10. I think it was a great movie, it made you want to laugh, cry. It was Amazing.

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