A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Breakfast Club

July 15, 2011

The Breakfast Club

Amanda was wiped out after a long day at work today and suggested we have breakfast for dinner. So I made cinnamon french toast and bacon with scrambled eggs, and I wondered aloud “what would be a good movie to watch while having breakfast for dinner?” To which she replied “How about The Breakfast Club?” Sounded perfect to me.

I was a freshman in high school when this movie came out. I didn’t see it however until probably two or three years later when it was on video. At the time I was not terribly comfortable with the movie. I enjoyed the rebellion against authority thing well enough I suppose, but there was a lot of vulgarity and talk about sex and drug use that I didn’t particularly enjoy. You have to remember just how painfully and awkwardly nerdish I was at that age. I made Brian, the nerd in this movie, seem positively outgoing and sociable.

Of course this movie is the quintessential eighties movie about being a teenager, so I guess I have to cut it some slack. John Hughes touched a nerve with this movie and insured a career of speaking to teenagers for years to come. Something about this story of five kids with desperate backgrounds bonding during a Saturday in detention rang true for millions of kids struggling to figure out who they were and how they fit into the world, and has continued to do so for decades since.

It’s a startlingly simple plot: five kids, each representing a different high school stereotype, are forced to spend a Saturday together in detention. There’s a jock, a princess, a nerd, a rebel and a basket case. The loud mouthed and irritating assistant principal Vernon tells them that they are not aloud to move from their seats in the library and must each write an essay about “who do you think you are.” Because they are all from different social strata they find it initially difficult to get along, but as the movie progresses they start to find common ground and discover that maybe they’re more than the labels that are applied to them. It helps that they have a laughably inept but self-obsessed authority figure they can collectively agree not to listen to.

It’s pure fantasy, of course. That’s part of its appeal. It is about teenagers learning something about themselves and sticking it to “the man.” In that regard I think I liked Ferris Bueller a lot more. This movie tries too hard to make these clear stereotypes feel more human. It tries to make them real people with insecurities and teenaged angst and all that, witch doesn’t fit with the parts of the movie that feel more like wish fulfilment. At least the characters acknowledge that their little bonding session is fantasy – with Claire (the princess) stating right out that even after learning that these other people could be her friends she wouldn’t acknowledge them in the light of day.

There’s so much in this movie that even now I don’t enjoy. John Bender (the rebel) is the big instigator of everything that happens and I think he’s supposed to be the “hero” of the movie, if it could be said to have one, but he’s so abrasive and irritating as a character. He’s precisely the kind of person I spent most of my high school years avoiding. So is the jock, Andrew. I sympathise most (of course) with Brian the nerd and Allison the oddball, because I was very much both of those things in my formative years. But this movie spends so much time trying to make Brian cool by association, and it utterly betrays Allison in the end, turning her into just another pretty girl when she started out as so cool and dark and peculiar.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of fun moments and laughs in this movie. It has that John Hughes hipness that permeated all of his films, and it’s hard to resist that simple appeal. I might not think much of the stereotypes and the characters on display, but at least I can appreciate an attempt to say that people are more than the cliques they hang in. The notion that people are more complex than we allow ourselves to believe with our first impression is fundamental to my view of the universe, so it’s nice to see that in a movie.

I actually do like this movie. I can’t help myself. I don’t enjoy being reminded of my awkward teenage years (this would be why I don’t attend high school reunions) but this movie is an unavoidable part of the common lexicon of anybody who grew up as part of my generation or of any generation after mine. Maybe I just resent the fact that the nerd doesn’t get the girl in the end. At least my own story turned out better.

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July 15, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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