Has it really been over eighteen years since The
Breakfast Club was first released to theaters? Shocking. As one of the
most defining movies for an entire generation, John Hughes's highly revered 1985
movie about five students, a library, and a full Saturday's worth of detention
is pretty much critic-proof. I mean sure, you could take the time to field-strip
the movie to such meticulous perfection that its faults lie exposed and
vulnerable for the entire universe to observe, but why bother? The
Breakfast Club is just one
of those movies that endures despite whatever criticism you can conjure up
against it. It's the Ronald Reagan of films, a Teflon-coated piece of celluloid
which has a strength and a perseverance that defies adversity.
Then again, the movie has pretty much earned its stripes as a classic of its
genre. The Breakfast Club has everything a great movie
requires: endearing characters, fine performances, a great
script, memorable lines etched into public consciousness, and a startling
relevance that outlives its era. The five kids are archetypes found in every
high school known to man or God: the jock, the pampered princess, the reticent
nerd, the brash hoodlum, and the inexplicable weirdo. Clichés? Without a doubt,
but since clichés always discover their progenitors in the realm of truth we as
the audience immediately identify with them. We know exactly who these people
are, but The Breakfast Club isn't as much interested in "who they are" as much as
"why are they that way".
The "why" is exquisitely handled by Hughes's
refreshingly honest screenplay and by the brazen performances of the cast. Judd
Nelson pretty much owned the character of Bender, the "criminal" of the group.
As written in the script, Bender is the fulcrum upon which the movie hinges. His
provocative manner, acerbic witticisms, and anarchic aggression work both to
belittle his companions and break them down to the barest essentials. What
Nelson does with the character is fairly extraordinary. He injects Bender with
startlingly realistic vivacity and intensity, but the character never seems too
satisfied with himself; he dominates the film, always gaining the moral high
ground in every argument, but never with an air of superiority or smug
Anthony Michael Hall is almost dead-on perfect as Brian, the "geek" of the group. His performance is so wonderfully understated, shy, and mannered that it only starts to unravel when he opens up to the group. Hidden, subdued anger is infinitely more difficult to portray than explicit rage, and Hall does such a brilliant job at the former that it's puzzling why the latter doesn't seem to be as convincing. Then again, perhaps I am missing the point: maybe it's the character who doesn't know how to portray his fear and anger rather than the actor.
The rest of the kids perform admirably in their roles. Molly Ringwald was the top teen actress of her time, and as Claire, the "princess", she did little to detract from that title. Emilio Estevez made for a convincing "jock"; you can literally see rivers of testosterone flowing underneath his skin (and as an aside – the reason for him being in detention was an interesting nod to the lingering homoeroticism in sports that professional "sportholes" seem to deny.) I had completely forgotten how good Ally Sheedy was as the "basket case." Her role was probably the most under-written of the five, but she makes the character so endearing and believable that, of all the characters in the film, hers is the one of whom I would most enjoy seeing further tales.
(And as another aside, she looked a lot hotter before her "make-over" than she did after Molly Ringwald butchered her. Feh!)
Eighteen years later, The Breakfast Club still works as great as it ever did. The laughs are still genuine, the feelings and fears the characters experience are still as real and as relevant as they were two decades ago. The film is probably Hughes's best as a writer/director, and for many of the cast The Breakfast Club remains the most cherished film of their fans. And yet, the film is deserves its acclaimed status. It still entertains and sustains interest with every frame, even for those of us who have seen it roughly six-thousand times and can recite the dialog quote and verse.
The Breakfast Club became a rite-of-passage for American high school students who came-of-age in the 1980s. Of course, it didn't hurt that, in the late winter/early spring of 1986, HBO pretty much replayed this movie – oh I don't know – maybe sixteen times a day? Almost as much as The Beastmaster! But that's a knish for another deli. In the case of Universal's latest release of the film, I can only lament the complete and utter lack of extras on this DVD. While the film looks and sounds fine enough, where is the commentary? Where are the deleted scenes we've seen in the trailer and on television edits? Where's the cast reunion? This film is a classic of its era, and it frosts my grundies to see lesser movies ladled with copious supplemental material while The Breakfast Club languishes with little more than its trailer. A shame. Nonetheless, the film speaks for itself, and the presentation of the film is very good. For fans, this is a must-purchase, but you'll be left wanting for more.