Saturday, October 5, 2013

CANON OF FILM: "THE BREAKFAST CLUB"

THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985)

Director/Screenplay: John Hughes



A brain, an athlete, a princess, a basketcase and a criminal. 

I've been thinking a lot about high school lately. I had a reunion recently; I didn't attend it 'cause it was too expensive and formal, but true to form for my class anyway, a few people had similar thoughts and chose to rebel and hold a more impromptu one elsewhere, and out-of-character for me, I attended. So, if some will bare with me a second.... To those who were trying to get me to say it the entire time, yes, I had fun. I'm sorry for seeming so ambivalent before about it, but I find it hard to appreciate certain things in the moment, but I really did have fun, and I'll try to attend other such events in the future. I was surprised just how many of them I remembered and how different or similar you had all become and how many of you were happy to see me. Many of my perceptions changed and I was amused at how some of you had thought of me, beforehand and since. It's strange how much of high school was really about perceptions. I don't know how anyone would've described me in high school, in fact I'd be surprised if any of them could (although I'd be interested in hearing some of your attempts), nor do I know how I would've defined me, and that's apart of the trick of "The Breakfast Club"; it's not simply that they're archetypes that are gonna be transcended by us, the audience, but also by the characters themselves, as they have their own preconceptions and prejudices transcended. 

Consider John Hughes’s work for a minute, his short story led to “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” the second-best behind “…Animal House,” of the National Lampoon’s films, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” is loved by almost everybody, “Sixteen Candles,” is unfortunately a lot closer to the realism of high school than it should be, “Plains, Trains, and Automobiles,” is seen every Thanksgiving like it’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and I didn’t even mentioned “Home Alone,” for good reason, but still it is pretty good slapstick. (And I think "Curly Sue" holds up too btw) They held a somewhat controversial tribute to him at the Oscars a few years ago, after his passing, but in hindsight, he has to be considered one of the best and most prolific and important screenwriters in the last few decades. “The Breakfast Club,” follows one of my favorite formulas of bringing people into a confiscated space and watch what happens. I must admit, I’ve never heard of this kind of Saturday detention that they have in the film, but the logic of it is irrelevant, the movie is actually mostly about humanizing the high school archetypes, that really don’t have to be described better than they are in the film. Yes, they're more than that, but everybody supposedly fits into a "clique" or a group of some kind, yada, yada, yada, and all those other things that seem important in high school that really aren't. The strange ironies of these groups is that being within groups such as these, you don’t get to really portray or figure out who they are. Unlike the adults in “Lost in Translation,” who are aware they all have had similar emotions, feelings, and experiences so they can talk in generalities, the high school kids in “The Breakfast Club,” although all aware of a certain amount of maturity that have, but still feel as though everything and every little moment is a new experience and they are unaware to how to balance these new real life experiences with there everyday lives and expectations. Some lives… well, I was about to say tougher than others, but growing up is going to be tough for everybody whether they live rich, smart, or get trashed upon. They don’t call them growing pains, for nothing. (I'm pretty sure I stole that last line, but I don't know where) Just like most everybody put into a locked space with people for a prolonged period of time, they eventually begin to lose the façade and start discussing themselves, however much or little of themselves there might be. The criminal, John Bender (Judd Nelson) gets cigar  burns by his father, but the Brain, Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) considers suicide after getting an F is Shop Class. The Princess, Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) uses her outward appearance to show her status, but the Basketcase girl, Alison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) who uses her dandruff in her artwork will trip her up and over-exaggerate her real life experiences to seem more interesting, even though she honestly has no interest in being more interesting, and for that matter, in anything that doesn’t relate directly to her needs, as the rest of the kids have no interest in each other lives and quirks. The Athlete, Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) wants nothing to do with the science club geek, and he wants nothing to do with the criminal, although he is impressed with a special talent the rich girl has, as most men are who see the film are. At least they think they don't, at first anyway.

I’ve always watched the film as a more metaphorically commentary on high school, but the interesting part is that the film seems to comment that high school really isn’t of that much of importance, which is right, although it does influences everything else that happens in our life. One thing I’ll bring up is that the adult characters in the film are both typically shallow, but on purpose because to kids, they are shallow. The janitor is there to give solid advice, just like a clichéd high school movie, but unlike a cliché, nobody listens to him. Adults do not live in the same world(s) as teenagers, but the difference is, the teens eventually will. 

But we don't get that ending, of the teenagers fully realizing that either. That's what I've suddenly realized about "The Breakfast Club" that I hadn't noticed before, the film is unfinished. We don't know what happens to any of these characters after that Saturday. We have hopes and that great ending shot of Judd Nelson, as Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me" plays, and I guess we presume that if they aren't friends afterwards or for very long, they'll always have that Saturday detention, but we aren't sure, and if ever there was a movie that could've done well to have a "Before Trilogy"-like sequel, this is it, and now we'll never know what actually happens to any of the characters. Maybe, that's why we insist of high school reunions, for the sense of closure. Or at least the next chapter, and a new perception. 
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