Friday, 9 October 2009

You have exactly eight hours and fifty-four minutes to think about why you're here. You may not talk, you will not move from these seats.

No 369 - The Breakfast Club
Director - John Hughes

I was going to watch this film months ago. As a fitting tribute to the late great John Hughes. However I don't own it. It arrived today and I watched straight away and I had forgotten how spot on it is.

The film follows a bunch of teenagers who have been sent to detention on a Saturday and who all conveniently all into stereotypes. So we have Andy, the Jock, played by Emilio Estevez. Claire, the Prom Queen, played by Molly Ringwald. Brian, the Nerd, played by Anthony Michael Hall, John, the Criminal, played by Judd Nelson and Allison, the Basket Case, played by Ally Sheedy. Together they make up the titular Breakfast Club.
The thing is, this film embraces the stereotypes. Wants the stereotypes. It is asking you to begin the film with preconceptions about the characters, because each character has preconceptions about the others. We know that High School (American more so than British) is a very cliquey place. See exhibit one or two for further evidence. Cliques do not intermingle and therefore would not know the others in any real detail. Each person is stuck in a room with strangers and their own personal prejudices and preconceptions.

The first half of the film and the characters play up to their stereotypes. Andy is uptight and angry and aggressive. John is a destructive dick. Claire is prissy, snobbish, stuck up. Brian is trying SO hard to get along with everyone and make everyone behave whilst Allison is just weird.
Then slowly, the group bond and the film becomes so much deeper. The characters get to know each other (and get progressively stoned). They begin to enjoy each others company and begin to tell home truths. There is a sort of 'prison' essence to it all "why are you here"... after all this is detention. The confessions for what they did and why they did it are so beautiful and poignant. This film may begin as a silly school romp with stereotype characters but before long we're exploring the deepest darkest recesses of the teenage psyche. Looking into their longing for attention and the massive pressures they get from teachers, parents and their friends and social standing.

John Hughes is an amazing writer and an excellent director. To create something that is so deep from such a light and fluffy premise. During his golden period, when he was king of the 80s, he really understood the teenage mind and how to truly explore it.

Each member of the group takes a while to become accustomed to their new found social circle. By the time everyone is friends, Claire openly admits she would still ignore them at school. This is not a film where *click* everyone gets on. This is full of all the stupid little hang ups that follow teenagers. Full of arguments, shouting and tension. But resolving in an amazing friendship of 5 people.
That's what makes the film genius.

So... I've never summed up my views on a film so quickly. I'm clearly becoming a bit more concise. There are some other things I want to mention.
Firstly... there is nothing really cinematic in scope in this film. There is very little in it which isn't set in the library. This could easily be a play. Yet, despite this it remains a captivating and filmic study of character and a wonderful slice of 80s. That is down to excellent direction though.

Secondly I think Brian is easily the best character. His pathetic neediness throughout is balanced shockingly by the admission of his attempted suicide - though he accidentally buys a flare gun which goes off in his locker.... hence his detention. He spends the whole film desperate to be liked and desperate to rebel (see how quickly he runs to join the people smoking weed at the back of the room). Brian is a hen pecked nerd who finally gets the chance to live through his new friends. It is a shame he gets stuck writing an essay whilst the other 4 pair up. Poor little Brian.

Thirdly... I know people are probably supposed to find Molly Ringwald more attractive, however... I think Ally Sheedy is really pretty in this. She looks lovely after her makeover from Claire at the film's conclusion, however she does lose some of her allure. There is something in her strangeness, her black eyeliner and scraggly clothes that just makes me fancy her quite a bit...

So there you have it... This is a film with one big message. Do not take people at face value. It doesn't try to be anything cleverer than it is, and because of that it delivers the message with elegance and dignity whilst painting the judgemental adults as complete violent pricks, and the non judgemental adults as genuinely kind. The Janitor doesn't take the kid's shit, but doesn't patronise them, whilst Mr Vernon gets angrier and angrier and more ridiculous throughout the film.

It also provides banging musical numbers. Sound quality is rubbish but you get the idea. Here is a better version of the song (only without the choreography).

Whilst I have you (my what short paragraphs I'm writing), if you haven't seen this yet, check it out. I know John Hughes died in August, but this is first of his films I've seen in the challenge and this is a stunning stunning tribute.

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