John Hughes' coming-of-age classic is fit for generation after generation....
With lockdown now a key part of our daily lives, we're probably all turning to streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix to get now daily fixes of entertainment, be it TV shows or films old-and-new. In the couple of films I've taken a look at in The Film Review, they've been absolute classics, and this third entry certainly lives up to its billing.
The Breakfast Club, released some thirty-five years now, way back when in 1985, is the quintessential teenage coming-of-age film. Over its duration, five polar opposite characters played magnificently by all involved manage to gel and prove to any audience that when we put differences aside, we can get on. Something seems quite ironic there.
It’s straight from the golden age of John Hughes’ back catalogue of films along with other teenage comedies such as Sixteen Candles from 1984. With two of its key actors returning in Molly Ringwald and Antony Michael Hall, as soon as The Breakfast Club begins, there’s a familiar warmth that comes over you as you watch it. It’s a stark reminder that everyone was a teenager once, and if they aren’t already, they will be soon. Sure, the hangups and admissions from them all are pretty standard stuff, but it’s one of the more relatable pictures in this category.
One thing that’s of great significance is the variety of characters. Whilst the overall cast and setting isn’t exactly making this film a high budget affair, it doesn’t have to be. The Breakfast Club appears to pride itself on an honesty that’s greatly reflected in each of the character’s own personal bubbles and eventual admissions as the film runs its course. Each character present, be it Judd Nelson’s fantastic tough guy John Bender, or Molly Ringwald’s prom queen Claire Standish, or Anthony Michael Hall’s class nerd Brian Johnson, is one that will be relatable to anyone watching - they either are that character or they know someone who is. Judd Nelson is undoubtedly the standout for me - the character of John Bender makes that film such an appealing watch. Sure, he can be a tad vulgar at times, but his comedic timing is on point and the tough guy persona he plays is one that’s going to make you cringe and laugh at the same time.
Reviews at the time of the film’s release picked on the lack of dimension in the adult characters and whilst this may be true for Carl the janitor in a sense, the inclusion of Paul Gleason as the arrogant headmaster does add a bit more to the story. He doesn’t add much substance, but as a relatively minor character, you wouldn’t expect him to be worthy of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. His incessant arguments with Bender are a right laugh, setting the atmosphere well for the rest of the film. With the main sections of the film only set in a school library, as any school detention would be, you can feel the tension between the characters coming through your television.
Something that the critics do fail to mention is the great soundtrack that certainly helps the film along. Whilst the now forever-remembered Simple Minds classic Don’t You (Forget About Me) acts as the opening and closing number, tracks such as Wang Chung’s Fire In The Twilight are proper full-on eighties tunes with a seething vocal backed by harsh drums, a catchy hook and subtle synth sounds and blend well with the on-screen action. Keith Forsey’s background pieces also help to make this film the complete eighties package.
The film’s entire premise is based on the edgier side to teenage life and whilst it’s heavily based on stereotypes, that’s only a temporary hangup. Those stock characters are this film’s bread-and-butter, and if there’s one film you need to see right now, it’s The Breakfast Club. With a nice fusing of comedy and drama, it’s the right mix to make the film appealing. Digging deeper, there’s a lot to learn from this teenage classic - don’t keep yourself within your own personal bubble. One way or another, you’ll have to open up to people, much like the characters do here, and it’s integral to our your differences aside and get on. Even with such a brilliant comedy, there’s such an important takeaway, and that’s the mark of a great film.