The Breakfast Club (1985) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

The Breakfast Club

Director: John Hughes
Writer: John Hughes
Stars: Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, Paul Gleason

Opening with Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget About Me” we see Andrew (Emilio Estevez), Brian (Anthony Michael Hall), Bender (Judd Nelson), Claire (Molly Ringwald) and Allison (Ally Sheedy) arrive at their school one Saturday morning for detention. Each of these characters come from different backgrounds and have nothing in common….or so they thought.

The Breakfast Club is now regarded as a classic film. It is also a classic John Hughes film (Written and Directed) about 5 outcasts coming together to serve an 8 hour detention set out by their principal Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason) who tasks them with a thousand words essay instructing them to write about themselves. What I liked about the storytelling in The Breakfast Club is that we the audience just like each individual character are discovering and bonding with them simultaneously.

Andrew is the High School “Jock”. A bit of a wise-ass who doesn’t tolerate stupidity and also can stand up for himself. Brian is the geek in the group and you are left wondering why he is there to begin with as his persona is very straight laced and has good manners. John Bender is the delinquent. An unpredictable character who borderlines stupidity with genius and is probably the funniest of them all. Claire like Brian is proper and clearly has standards. She is clearly from a more privileged background than the likes of Bender and he senses this and also plays on this. Finally the group is complete with the weirdest character out of them all in Allison. To begin with is very quiet at first and you sense she is like this until she gets to know them better. Vernon is a no nonsense talking teacher that enforces bullying tactics on to the students and is almost like their drill sergeant.

The writing talents of Hughes is very much on display in The Breakfast Club. Who else could take a simple and restrictive scenario and turn it into an hour and a half of fascinating, humorous and heartbreaking stories that will make you laugh one minute and choke up the very next? I’ve always been a fan of Hughes’ films. I think perhaps in the early to mid nineties some people would trash on his theme as seen as unrealistic, clichéd and somewhat outdated very quickly. I’m certainly not in that camp as I always felt his storytelling was universal and relevant despite the time period. His understanding of teenagers and their thoughts, hopes and angst are what makes his film appealing and understanding.

Emilio Estevez always reminded me of Michael J Fox at his peak. Not just in looks but his physical stature would always be misinterpreted as a weakling. Estevez plays Andrew perfectly as someone who stands up for the weak but not the stupid. Anthony Michael Hall left The Griswolds at this point in his career to appear in the film and would go on to appear in some classic films. His underlying humour in his portrayal of Brian is sweet and sympathetic at times. Molly Ringwald is perfect as Claire. Her portrayal in The Breakfast Club as the privileged queen is s total flip from her character in Pretty in Pink showing us how talented an actress she is. Ally Sheedy who would go on to appear in Short Circuit already had War Games in The bag and was now playing a slightly cookie teenager who had some strange ticks and clearly a dark humorous side to her and Judd Nelson for me is the stand out performer in the movie. His portrayal of John Bender will irritate you, will make you laugh and feel bad for him throughout the story. Nelson would go on and do more films with “The Brat Pack” and display his versatility and range as his career development. Paul Gleason as the Principal is great. Yes he is a bully, but there is something funny about his behaviour in the film when it looks like he is losing a battle of wits against the group and mostly from Bender who just rubs him up the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, Vernon is also a nasty piece of work who goads Bender in a climatic confrontation that makes you root for the student, even when he is a pain in the ass.

Like most John Hughes films “The Breakfast Club” has an awesome soundtrack that epitomises the 1980s are the opening track by Simple Minds would catapult them from Glasgow Band to Superstardom overnight. Overall “The Breakfast Club” is a classic for a reason. Superb writing with a superb cast that deliver each line to perfection with timing and meaning and also giving the characters time to grow on each other and the audience alike. This film isn’t as sugarcoated as “Pretty in Pink” it has its dark moments and in the final third will put you through the emotional wringer. This is one of John Hughes best films and I highly recommend giving this a viewing. 

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