Movie #257 2020: The Breakfast Club (1985)

You may recall that not long ago, I pledged to watch more classic rom-coms. Don’t worry, that’s still ongoing. However, it was also brought to my attention that I’d not seen many classic teen coming-of-age stuff either, so why not throw a little John Hughes into this mix?

If you’re one of the very few movie fanatics like me who hasn’t seen this movie, let me give it a quick rundown for you. The Breakfast Club is a strongly eighties, cultural phenomenon that is built on quite a simple idea: a group of five complicated high school students are forced to meet – for various reasons – on a Saturday in detention. The quintuplet could not be more different… or so it seems. Each character comes with defining characteristics that they divulge (both willingly and unwillingly) to the others in the class, and as the day goes on, the teens quickly realise they have more in common than they may have originally thought.

Pretty basic, right? It’s a simple premise, bulked out with some very nuanced, fully-realised and well-conceived characters. If you needed a summary in one sentence, that would be it.

Is The Breakfast Club only iconic because it was basically the birth of teen movies? By no means is it a bad movie, and it is easy to see why many love it so much, but if this was released in 2020 would it be held in such high esteem? It must have been refreshing for teens to see such candid conversations about sex and puberty on screen in 1985, however, and that is quite obviously where the appeal comes from. Sadly if this were made today, the characters would be far too annoying and cliche for anyone to actually care. (Stock characters such as the generic popular high school quarterback, the ‘Barbie’-esque Instagram influencer, and the coding nerd all spring to mind.)

More successfully, the movie’s themes and tone are expertly conveyed here. Tropes such as nihilism, angst and stereotyping are rife – in a good way – but again, it’s really difficult to actually like any of the characters. Other than Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) and – at times – Emilio Estevez’s character, the gang are generally a huge bunch of dicks for the majority of the movie. Bender is bordering on sexual assault at various points, which clearly does not stand up in today’s climate, and Claire brings the “popular girl” to the film without many redeeming features. All perform well, yes, but some of the character features are extremely questionable for a teen movie, especially in this day and age. Despite this, it’s glaringly obvious why most of these young actors went on to star in many, many other movies afterwards.

Stylistically, the use of one location and a one day time frame for the entire movie is great, and has clearly inspired many other films that have come since. Quite tellingly, these are the two factors that I already knew about before watching the movie, so it’s clear to see the impact that The Breakfast Club had on the world and indeed the world of cinema.

It’s overwhelmingly easy to appreciate the technical aspects of this film despite not being completely engrossed by the story. Some of the shot framing is completely original and unique, which is absolutely necessary to elevate a movie that could have been extremely one note. 

Whilst one can’t say that one fully understands the reasons for The Breakfast Club being so universally acclaimed, it’s not exactly a tough ask to see the brilliance within it.

To be quite honest, this was more of a middling 3 Qs out of 5 in terms of enjoyability for me, but I had to bump up the rating to 4 purely for the unexpected dance montage at the end. What? Would you rather I lied to you?

The Breakfast Club is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

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