Film @ The Digital Fix

June 30, 2018 – 07:28 am
imageIf your formative years fell in the 1980's then there's a good chance that you have fond memories of writer/producer/director John Hughes' work in one way or another, from the bumbling antics of the Griswolds in the Vacation series to the slapstick of Home Alone at the outset of the 1990's. Sandwiched in-between was a series of teen movies which constituted a full half of Hughes' 8-film directorial career and culminated with the genre-defining The Breakfast Club, which chronicles a day in the life of five kids stuck in detention in the fictional Illinois suburb of Shermer.

The premise is just that simple, with a group of stereotypical high-schoolers and their frustrated principal having to do a day's worth of detention on a Saturday, but the writing elevates the characters beyond mere clich as they spill their troubles to each other. The spoiled rich girl Claire is tired of being an emotional weapon wielded by her warring parents, Andrew the jock hates having to be a vessel for his father's ambitions, Brian wants to kill himself because he isn't going to get straight A's, the oddball outcast Allison just wants to be noticed and the obnoxious Bender drives everyone away because of his troubled home life.

imageThe cast is populated by the cream of young Hollywood's 'Brat Pack' and they're all so perfect for their particular roles. Anthony Michael Hall's skinny bookworm is a great contrast for Emilio Estevez' toned athlete, and Judd Nelson's rebellious troublemaker projects an air of defiance from beginning to end. The beautiful Molly Ringwald is terrific as the pristine prom-queen-to-be and Ally Sheedy plays against type as the introverted black-clad loner who's got nothing better to do, while Paul Gleason is excellent as the hard-assed Principal Vernon. John Kapelos gets a small role as Carl the janitor who dispenses sage advice to all.

imageIt's surprising how little the look of the film has aged; there are no mohawks or 'Flock of Seagulls' hairdo's amongst the cast (unlike Weird Science which came out the same year) nor are their costumes beholden to that peculiarly angular '80s style, with Bender's eclectic ensemble not looking like it belongs to any era. And although Vernon sports a swanky suit with a big disco-fever shirt collar and flared trousers he rightly gets some stick from the kids for it, as even then it was outdated, never mind now. Admittedly, the teen slang of the time is outmoded to the point of hilarity, but given how old some of the cast members were when they made the film (Nelson was 26, Estevez and Sheedy were 23, Hall and Ringwald were 17) it sounds strangely awkward coming out of their mouths regardless. Thankfully the movie is more about delving into the emotional cores of the quintet, so when they're finished hurling insults and are actually talking to each other The Breakfast Club really finds its voice.

It's not all tear-stained heart-to-hearts though, as plenty of anarchic fun comes from the kids defying their straight-laced principal via several whimsical vignettes that alternate with the more emotional beats, like all of them whistling the Colonel Bogey March (as if they're POW's) or the music-video-style interludes. The cheese factor goes off the scale when Emilio Estevez' character has a dancing fit and screams so loudly he shatters the glass in a door (which Hughes apparently said he wouldn't have done had he made the movie later in his career) but I can forgive such a cringe-worthy bit for the sheer youthful exhuberance of it, and the serious moments work all the better for being broken up by such playful scenes.


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