44 Films: Film 8 of 44: "The Breakfast Club" (1985)
Film 8 of 44:
"The Breakfast Club" (1985)
Written and Directed by John Hughes
In that painfully unnecessary but guilty pleasure-worthy 2001 teen flick, Not Another Teen Movie, Molly Ringwald makes a nudge-and-wink cameo in the final scene. She's a sharp-witted flight attendant who interrupts a cliched conversation between two teenage lovebirds, cussing them out at their impish entrance into romance. Without any context, the scene is forgettable, but anyone in the know would recognise the irony of a luminary of 1980's teen malaise appearing decades later as a wary, condescending, potty-mouthed adult.
The Breakfast Club is John Hughes tour-de-force; a film that depicted American delinquency and anxiety so accurately that it became a seminal piece on the subject, much like Rebel Without A Cause did thirty years prior. He introduces us to five very suburban (and very Caucasian) high schoolers as they show up for a full Saturday of detention, which I imagine would feel like a lifetime to them. They fulfil (or create?) the stereotypical groupings of teens that were paid copious belated homages in the late 90's and early 2000's: the jock (Emilio Esteves, of the Sheen family), the snooty belle (the Molly Ringwald), the nerd (Anthony Michael Hall), the rebel (Judd Nelson) and the outcast (Ally Sheedy). These dissimilar youth are herded into the school library, where they're barred by their principal from moving, sleeping or fraternising, which naturally results in them doing all three.
The whole film pretty much takes place in the library, but John Hughes' direction and editing keep us occupied all through. We're treated to the initial and expected tensions in the first third of their encounter. Hughes even allows us certain glances at the clock as everyone gets awkwardly and aggressively acquainted. The expected topics appear in conversation--sex, family, alcohol, friends, sex, drugs, love, parents, food, the future, philosophy and sex--but they happen with such fluency and frankness that they carry us into uncertainty, and then into free-fall. As the teens collide and unravel, Hughes finds moments to forsake continuity and logic, giving us a palpable sense of the erratic lifetime they're experiencing. In between, we're treated to the sort of vulnerable dialogue that I wish I was able (or allowed) to articulate when I was their age.
What was most profound about this film--and I say this as a flag-bearing member of the seen-but-not-heard Moi-era generation--was the honesty of the depiction of these characters. They're allowed to just be. While they do suffer from very present adult and internal antagonistic forces, they thrive. Even in their ugliness. So authentically, that everything about them, good and bad, is affirmed. I wish I'd seen this film earlier.
Finally, in one memorable scene, the "kids" mull on the possibility of one day becoming their parents. I wonder the same thing all the time; if my adolescent angst would make me empathetic towards my future offspring. I don't know. There's evidence all around that we're prone to the same frailties as our parents, so our empathy veers more strongly towards them, and probably away from our ever-changing runts. So, if it was possible that a filmmaker as astute as Hughes could make a sequel happen, with these same kids as parents, and we got to see how they were doing now... that, I'd pay good money for.
Unfortunately, Not Another Teen Movie will have to do.
See you tomorrow.
'The Breakfast Club' is available on Netflix, along with dozens of other classic films spanning decades. You may have to dig a bit, but they're there. And from what I've seen recently, more are coming. Oh, 'Not Another Teen Movie' is there too.