Today is the 30th ‘birthday’ of The Breakfast Club. I know this because my son Luke brought it to my attention. He has seen the movie about a dozen times. I asked Luke if he would write up some thoughts about The Breakfast Club to celebrate his favorite movie. He emailed me 20 minutes later with this:
“Saturday…March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois. 60062. Dear Mr. Vernon…we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong, what we did was wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write this essay telling you who we think we are, what do you care? You see us as you want to see us… in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct?”
Thirty years later, this monologue from the beginning of The Breakfast Club, written and directed by John Hughes, still holds a chilling amount of relevance over current conditions in most public schools. Kids are written off by what people think of them and what they’re good at, and no allowance is given for what they WANT to do.
The Breakfast Club is the story of five kids, meeting at seven in the morning in detention. Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), the awkward and submissive nerd, Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), the single-minded jock, Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), an impulsive liar who is allergic to social acceptance, Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), the prom queen and for all intents and purposes, the most popular girl in school, and finally John Bender (Judd Nelson), a ‘criminal’ who oozes sarcasm and vibes of nonchalance.
Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), the principal, instructs the unlikely group on what they are to do.
“ …and you may not talk. You will not move from these seats. And you… may not sleep. Alright people, we’re going to try something different today. I want you to write an essay, of no less than a thousand words, describing to me who you think you are.”
…The group’s answer to which is iterated in the intro of the film. Which leaves the rest of the space in the movie dedicated to HOW the crew developed as people to come to that conclusion.
From a storytelling standpoint, the setting for this film is perfect. The entirety of the movie takes place in a school, and beyond that, in one room. In the beginning, all the characters are reserved and functionally opposite from each other. The plot progression of this movie is the movement forward of these five people; this movie is about human interaction and it makes no effort to mask it.
I adore The Breakfast Club. Its entertainment value is high, and if you look behind the veil of comedy John Hughes applies to achieve said entertainment value, it addresses very real issues. There are ‘Breakfast Clubs’ like this all over the world; kids that are limited by their parents, financial situation, race, or otherwise, finding solace in each others’ hardships. The individual characters are so well crafted, you feel the pain and struggle they go through to find balance in their lives, even if you can’t directly relate to them. It’s a masterpiece of heart-tugging realism, humor, and overall a film that perfectly encapsulates the picture of its era.
Did You Know?
• Over the course of the movie, the characters remove various articles of their clothing, symbolic of them opening up as people.
• Brian Johnson’s license plate reads ‘EMC2’, keeping in line with his nerd persona, and Andrew Clark’s reads ‘OHIOST’, which is fitting for a jock.
• Towards the beginning of the movie, the janitor Carl is portrayed in the picture for ‘Man of the Year 1969’.
• Both the scene where the group gets high, and the famous confession scene, are largely improvised.
• Over 200,000 feet of film was shot as a result of John Hughes’ embrace of improvisation.
The original trailer for the movie:
A nice fan-made mini-documentary about The Breakfast Club featuring numerous audio and video interview clips with John Hughes as well as video with Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and Ally Sheedy.
A “Good Morning America” segment with Hall, Nelson, Ringwald, and Sheedy in 2010, reflecting on their experiences making the movie:
A compilation called The Best of John Bender:
When I think about this movie, I am struck by the loss of John Hughes. Perhaps even more than that, the loss of John Hughes movies. The Breakfast Club reminds us how those early Hughes’ films did such an incredible job exploring the world of adolescence. Where are the movies today featuring teenagers in their social element? Thankfully, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have written some fine ones including the adaptations The Spectacular Now (novel by Tim Tharp) and The Fault in Our Stars (novel by John Green), but it sure seems to me there is room for much more in the way of stories focusing on the experience of contemporary adolescents.
Are there any budding John Hughes out there? Because we could use a voice like that in times like these.
How about you? What are your thoughts or memories of The Breakfast Club?