The past couple weeks or so have been a cornucopia of “The Breakfast Club”-related news items, photos and think pieces (I should know – mine is coming next week in The Palm Beach Post!). Thirty years ago, John Hughes released the story of five completely different kids in the Chicago suburbs getting to know each other – and themselves – during all-day detention. Its success was shocking to a lot of people, including the execs who originally poo-pooed it, because in place of the usual teen movie boobs and wild beer parties was just talking. A lot of talking. One mad run through the halls, some pot-smoking and a dance break. And then a lot more talking.
In the midst of all this yapping, each character had a personality-defining moment that established them as more than a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. They’re also designed to make you cry and feel things, although some are more effective than others. Here they are, ranked in order of character-revelatory emotional devastation:
5) Andrew (Emilio Estevez): As much as I loved Emilio Estevez – and if you went to high school with me you know that was a lot – I have to put wrestler Andrew’s teary explanation of how he bullied hairy kid Larry Lester by taping his butt cheeks together at the bottom. Maybe the writing was a little clunky, or the tears seemed a little not real. Maybe it’s because I would have been a Larry Lester more than an Andrew.
4) Clair (Molly Ringwald): I wanted to be Molly Ringwald when I was in high school, although I related more to principled thrift fashioned outsider Andie in “Pretty In Pink” then perfect, popular Clair. (I came to understand as an adult that people remembered me as more popular than I felt, which makes me feel stupid I wasted time feeling like a leper and not basking in my supposed fabulousness.) Anyway, here she’s sharing the skill of hand-less lipstick application as a way of being vulnerable to her new friends. Of course, it’s about to backfire on her because SOMEBODY feels like being a jerk. But it’s important.
3) Allison (Ally Sheedy): Basket case Allison’s defining moment, to me, isn’t so much spoken as it is dumped out on the couch (and it certainly isn’t that stupid makeover, which I understood for bonding purposes but still hate because it reinforces the idea that women have to change everything about them to get a guy, when that makes you…someone else). Her purse dump is her weird, non-verbal way of desperately trying to be a part of the conversation – any conversation, really. And as an adult it breaks my heart to see this odd, abrasive little heart so ignored.
2) John Bender (Judd Nelson): It’s been 30 years and Bender still gets to me, because underneath the flannel, the cursing and the aggression is a beat-upon kid who decided to become the bum everyone expected him to be. That doesn’t make him not a jackass. Because he is a jackass and – please, young people, ingest this – would be a very bad boyfriend who would always make his shortcomings about how no one understands him and how you’re spoiled and don’t get life and everything you like is stupid. But this bit about a typical night in the Bender home is chilling. Purposely over-dramatic to make the other kids uncomfortable, sure. But probably true.