Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Breakfast Club: A Short Film Review

A Film Review
By Daniel Skye

          No, you didn’t misread the title. This is a short film review of one of my favorite movies, the Breakfast Club. It’s a shocker, I know. The guy who writes about horror and science fiction twenty-four-seven is a fan of the freaking Breakfast Club. Sue me.
          Or laugh it up if you must, but this film will forever be a classic in my mind, and in the minds of many others.
          You could make fun of me for liking this film. Or you can make fun of the fact that the movie came out in 1985 and this film review is thirty years late. Well, that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this.
          This year, 2015, marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Breakfast Club. Has the film aged well? Does it still hold up as a classic? In the end, only you can be the judge. But in my humble opinion, the issues and struggles that these characters face are just as relevant today as they were thirty years ago.
The jock (Emilio Estevez). The brain (Anthony Michael Hall). The princess (Molly Ringwald). The criminal (Judd Nelson). The basket case (Ally Sheedy). They’ve all got their own issues to deal with. But for one Saturday, they’ll have to deal with each other as well. And they’ll also learn more about themselves than they ever could outside the walls of detention.
John Hughes’ seminal coming-of-age film is a memorable one for certain. The film could very well be labeled as the defining experience of an entire generation (ok maybe I’m taking it a bit too far with that one).
The film is indeed a commentary of one particular generation, but you can’t deny the films influence on the other generations that followed. The generations of people–past and present–who were touched or influenced by this work of sheer brilliance.
In one particularly memorable confrontation between high school delinquent John Bender (Judd Nelson) and assistant principal Vernon (Paul Gleason), Bender tells the principal of his school to “eat his shorts”, a line made famous by iconic cartoon character Bart Simpson. But Nelson had first dibs, and the writers of the Simpsons were no doubt influenced by the works of Mr. Hughes, as were many comedy writers that appreciated the magic of his films.
With classic one liners and insults such as “Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?” and “Eat my shorts” being hurled at Vernon by Bender, the dialogue never gets old.
And neither does the dialogue or the interaction between the characters. You’d think the setup, five kids sitting around in detention all Saturday, would get old pretty fast.
But these five ostensible stereotypes, who started out with nothing in common, discover that they have more in common than they ever imagined. As they talk about family, they realize their “perfect” family lives aren’t so perfect after all. Not like Bender doesn’t know that one already. As they hash out the details of their existences, they realize despite their differences, they all face similar complications or pressures in their lives.
They talk about their sex lives, or their lack of sex lives. They talk about what they did to land themselves in Saturday detention. They talk and talk and it never gets old.
Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) discovers that she’s not all that. That she’s not better than the rest. She also rejects her pristine image by giving Bender a hickey in the closet and kissing him outside the school, solidifying the bond they shared that day. As a parting gift, she removes one of her diamond earrings, shedding away her materialistic qualities.
Andrew Clarke (Emilio Estevez) discovers that he doesn’t have to be the person that he thinks his father wants him to be. That he doesn’t have to conform to certain standards. That it’s ok to be different. And different is exactly what he gets when he shares a passionate kiss with oddball Allison.
Brainiac Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) realizes just because you’re the brain, it doesn’t mean you have all the answers. It doesn’t mean you have the whole world figured out. But that’s ok too. Because high school is about discovering your true self, about shaping and molding the person you will become in the future.
Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) realizes that for once in her life, it’s acceptable to be normal. That you don’t have to pretend to be someone or something that you’re not. That it’s all right to be one of the group.
And Bender discovers that secret little soft spot inside of him that was waiting to be brought out by the right person.
          The actors were all spot-on, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t care for Emilio Estevez. There are two kinds of people in this world: People who like Emilio Estevez, and people who don’t. I belong in the latter category.
That being said, his whole tough guy jock act, like when he tells Bender to lay off Claire, felt extremely forced and it led to quite a bit of overacting on his part.
Molly Ringwald played the role of the spoiled princess to a T and was very easy on the eyes. It’s not hard to see why she was such a big star for a period of time.
Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) is the film’s most complex character. Allison goes through a wide range of emotions. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think this girl has split personality disorder. She’s quirky, she’s giddy, she’s pouty, she’s shy, she’s cunning, she’s manipulative, and she’s also the odd one out. The one who doesn’t fit in to any social equation. She’s Bender times ten. And Ally Sheedy deserves a round of applause for her performance.
Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) is a nerd who knows exactly what he is. He’s shy, he’s a pushover, a doormat, incapable of standing up for himself or voicing his own opinions. Everyone thinks he’s smart. Everyone thinks he has the answers. But he can’t even figure out the purpose of his own existence. And Anthony Michael Hall played this role well. And he continued to play it throughout his entire character.
Judd Nelson is the other standout in this movie. He channeled the rage and frustration his character felt while still remaining likable and sympathetic. At the end of the movie, I was rooting for him to kiss Claire. His performance and Ally Sheedy’s memorable character truly stand out above the rest in this film.
Paul Gleason did well in his role of the hardheaded, unlikable Richard (Dick) Vernon, a man who thinks he has life figured out, but is just as lost and confused as those misguided youths he watches over in detention.
You may walk away from this film feeling happy. You may walk away feeling sad that it’s over. You may turn it off halfway through and be sorry you even wasted your time renting it or checking it out on Netflix (I believe it’s still available, by the way). But please don’t deny the films power, its influence, and the mark it has left on our cultural landscape.
On a scale of One to Ten, I award the Breakfast Club a Nine. Maybe I’m being biased. Maybe I’m being insulting by not awarding it a Ten. But it’s still a personal favorite of mine after all these years. And if it’s a personal favorite of yours, you owe it to yourself to dust off your copy, pop it in the DVD or Blu Ray player, and celebrate thirty years of the Breakfast Club.

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