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Breakfast Club, The (1985)

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Score: 9/10

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.

Release Date: February 15th, 1985 MPAA Rating: R

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

I

n Illinois, five kids spend a fateful Saturday together in detention at Shermer High School’s library. Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) ditched, but doesn’t feel like she deserves such a punishment; Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) is the nerdy Math, Latin, and Physics Club guy; Varsity Wrestling state champion Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) was sent there by his coach; John Bender (Judd Nelson) is the wisecracking, jean jacket-wearing rebel (with a chain dangling from the wallet in his back pocket), who dislikes everything and everyone; and Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) is the gothic, quiet, artistic one, solemnly chewing her nails. Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason) is the teacher in charge of keeping them in line, though he retires to his office regularly and can’t quite seem to keep track of who is conducting which shenanigan.

The students have nine hours to sit in their seats. They’re not allowed to move, talk, or sleep. Instead, they’re supposed to write a 1000-word essay describing who they think they are. But it turns into nine hours of figuring out how to defy authority, disobey the rules, tease one another, and devise pranks on their disciplinary captor. It also becomes a peculiarly therapeutic bonding session in which they trade stories about parentage, parties, hobbies, virginity, problematic home lives, promiscuity, and popularity – all while they conduct more and more outrageous acts of defiant revelry.

It opens with a quote by David Bowie (how appropriate!) before steadily escalating into a series of alternately hilarious and poignant vignettes, spanning relationships, the mocking of parental situations, simply eating lunch, retrieving drugs, momentarily escaping their confines, and cavorting through the halls. “The Breakfast Club” is an edgier, authentic glimpse of the darker side of teen years through various scenarios of adult provocations and static stereotyping, explosive confrontations for the sake of respect and image, bullying, and frank sexual conversations. It also startlingly varies between the harsh realities of youthful cruelty, disparate cliques, and energetic rambunctiousness as it analyzes the differences between friendships, mere company, and camaraderie in the face of social pressures.

Following the success of “Sixteen Candles,” writer/director John Hughes once again sensationally captures the feel of adolescent rebellion and nonconformity with both timeless severity and laugh-out-loud dialogue. And he does it all in basically just one set. “The Breakfast Club” goes even further in showcasing young performers and a unique comprehension of teen interactions – or, at the very least, an uncommonly entertaining take on those troubling transitional years and the struggles to make an impression and command an identity. Hughes’ grasp on the related rapport and lingo is exceptionally keen (or his directorial skills with the regularly improvising cast are particularly apt), aided further by a hip soundtrack – despite Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” being the only truly memorable song. Even the janitor (John Kapelos) gets some witty lines. Coming-of-age misbehaving has never appeared so cinematically powerful.

– Mike Massie

 



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