My anthem through High School was Nirvana and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and not John Hughes. But like another Teen Angst movie called “Pump Up the Volume”, Hughes’ 1985 movie “The Breakfast Club” is good because it’s timeless. Yes, I’ll grant you that the characters are all obvious stereotypes: Emilio Estevez’s jock, Anthony Michael Hall’s nerd, Judd Nelson’s troublemaker, Molly Ringwald’s preppy, and Ally Sheedy’s weirdo. Even the adults, represented by Paul Gleason’s Vernon, are stereotyped. But then again — isn’t that the whole point?
“The Breakfast Club” has a basic premise: 5 students with different personalities and backgrounds are sentenced to a Saturday in detention and confined to their school’s library for 8 hours. During those times, the students at first clash over differences, but eventually unite under a banner of “parents just don’t understand”. Like “Volume”, “Club” makes very broad strokes about the inability of parents, and adults in general, to relate to teens. But also like “Volume”, though the situation may be exaggerated there’s no doubt that the gap really does exist and it’s only getting wider.
By all accounts “Club” is a formulaic Teen Movie, with the exception being that the topics brought up are more than clothes, the upcoming prom, and how to land that hot cheerleader. Instead of those trivial matters, writer/director John Hughes throws alienation, abuse, and pressures both peer and parental, at us. Although it’s also a comedy, “Club” does offer some heavy doses of melodrama. There are also the inevitable Moments of Big Revelation where each character bears their soul and as a result all their trespasses up to this point is supposed to be forgiven.
Despite being very predictable, “Club” still manages to stir the emotions because of its effective cast. The star seems to be Judd Nelson, whose troublemaker Bender gets all of the screenplay’s best lines. Ally Sheedy also gets in some good quips, as well as looking quite attractive despite the “weirdo” makeup and clothes her character wears. As is the case in a lot of Hughes’ movies involving high schoolers, the nerd is clearly the cinematic reincarnation of Hughes himself. In this case, Hughes appears in the movie by way of Anthony Michael Hall, whose character also opens and ends the movie with a brief voiceover narration.
Despite its ’80s pedigree, “Club” stands up surprisingly well in 2003. The screenplay by Hughes is not completely anachronistic, as is the case with a lot of ’80s Teen Movie. Sure, the clothes, and a scene where the kids start dancing for no particular reason, seems a bit, well, ’80ish, but as a whole the film stands up very well to time. Change the clothes, some of the slang, and make Ally Sheedy’s weirdo into a Goth, and the film could be a 2003 movie without missing a beat.
“The Breakfast Club” is a good movie for teens. It’s oftentimes funny and despite its broad strokes and perhaps too familiar stereotypical “teens”, the film still manages to sell the angst with conviction. The film works on many levels and I believe parents should really see it to get a decent understanding of their teens. Yes, “Club” was made in 1985, but if you think it’s since lost its relevance, you would be wrong. Teen Angst is alive and well, and it’s never going to go away as long as there are parents and teens. That’s life. Deal with it.
John Hughes (director) / John Hughes (screenplay)
CAST: Emilio Estevez …. Andrew Clarke
Anthony Michael Hall …. Brian Ralph Johnson
Judd Nelson …. John Bender
Molly Ringwald …. Claire Standish
Ally Sheedy …. Allison Reynolds