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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perhaps in the early to mid nineties some people would trash on his theme as seen as unrealistic, clichéd and somewhat outdated very quickly.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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Pretty in Pink (1986) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Pretty in Pink

Director: Howard Deutch
Writer: John Hughes
Stars: Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, Harry Dean Stanton, Andrew McCarthy, James Spader, Annie Potts

I was 10 years old when Pretty in Pink was released and it wasn’t until the early 1990’s in my mid teens I finally got round to seeing the John Hughes classic. Pretty in Pink is about a girl from the wrong side of the tracks called Andie (Ringwald) who must choose between the affections of her doting childhood sweetheart “Duckie” (Cryer) and a rich but sensitive playboy named Blane (McCarthy) It’s fair to say that Pretty in Pink optimises the 1980’s with it’s terrific soundtrack, fashion and most of all it’s ideology and class beliefs in a decade fascinated with possession and finance. I also think it’s fair to say stripping all of these element away lies a story about never judging a book by it’s cover and attempting to break down the social barriers of the time. Although, the film doesn’t exactly revolutionise the way people were in the 80’s or change their perceptions on each other, it’s message is loud and clear.

John Hughes as a writer was untouchable in this period in his career. He has already bagged a comedy classic 3 years previously in National Lampoon’s Vacation. Sixteen Candles (1984) a year later and followed that up with the classic The Breakfast Club (1985) He would continue to remain consistent in his writings after Pretty in Pink to with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), The Great Outdoors (1988), Uncle Buck (1989) and reached his creative powers and peak with the 1990 comedy classic Christmas film Home Alone. Hughes in his mid to late 30’s understood the youth of the day. He also understood character development and relied on a portion of “The Bratt Pack” in his Directorial films also to fulfil his vision. I think it is fair to say that he created memorable characters throughout this period and in Pretty in Pink he manages to achieve this.

Molly Ringwald as Andie is conscious of the fact that her social circles are beginning to mingle with the more prestige dwellers of High School and in Blane she realises that stripping back the fancy houses and cars that the character that Andrew McCarthy portrays is a likeable and honourable chap. Of course there will be a price to pay for both Andie and Blane as the story unfolds later on. Especially with the despicable Steff played by a very youthful James Spader who is hellbent in reminding Blane of the Code of Conduct amongst “their own” and not to get too attached to the poorer Andie. This is what Pretty and Pink manages address throughout the movie. The sub story behind this is the relationship between Andie and Duckie. I think Jon Cryer did a great job as the doting “friend” to Andie. He would do anything for her and it’s almost heartbreaking to see the character carry such a happy go lucky persona throughout, even when you know inside he is in love with Andie, who is totally unaware of his feelings and sees him as a friend and nothing more. Ringwald, McCarthy, Spader and Cryer are the main characters throughout and its easy to forget that Molly Ringwald was only 18 when she did this movie with the others in their mid 20’s. 

Supporting the Quartet is the brilliant Harry Dean Stanton as Andie’s Father Jack. Both abandoned by Andie’s Mother a few years previously to the events of the film Jack is struggling to cope with raising a teenage daughter and as the film wears on his relationship is slipping away from him. Harry Dean Stanton sadly passed away just under a year ago at the age of 91 and his acting, charisma and screen presence throughout his 50 year career will never be forgotten. Annie Potts plays Iona, a friend a work colleague to Andie (Both work in a local Record Store) and this is where you hear most of the soundtrack playing in the background with one of my favourite songs of the day from Echo and the Bunnymen “Bring on the Dancing Horses” Potts plays the supporting a loyal friend to Andie and does a fine job with some quick witted lines that are razor sharp and brutal to the recipient.

Overall, Pretty in Pink perhaps doesn’t have the darker edge that The Breakfast Club had, but it certainly has the social conscience that the audience could take from it and understand the struggles of social prejudice and the impact it had on relationships with friends and lovers in this movie. The character of Blane manages to ensure that the audience doesn’t hate on the more well to do members of society as he is seen as a level headed youth with morals that move away from the possessions and bank accounts of his peers. Andie represents the underdog and is the most relatable character to the audience. John Hughes’ writing is clever and thought provoking here. His understanding of the teens of the 1980’s cannot go unnoticed in this movie and although the underlying issues have been present from the day dot he manages to incapture this in Pretty in Pink. The Humour is just about right also and Cryer has most of the lines in this case and shows even this early in his career why he is regarded as a talented and funny man. If you are unfamiliar with John Hughes work I would probably suggest watching his movies in chronological order and you will see his talents develop with every movie and by the time you get to Pretty in Pink you will be wanting more. Recommended.