“Screws fall out all the time. It’s an imperfect world…”
In a previous Monday Movie post, I featured a clip from Planes, Trains And Automobiles – which, like The Breakfast Club was also written and directed by Hughes – and explained in some detail why I love it so much and consider such an outstanding comedy film.
Technically, it is near flawless, boasting a beautifully-structured, perfectly-paced script, some wonderful slapstick set pieces, great dialogue and outstanding performances from Steve Martin and John Candy. I often say that it’s the closest I’ve ever seen modern-day film-makers get to recreating the genius of Laurel and Hardy.
Yet much as I admire and enjoy Planes, Trains and Automobiles, my favourite John Hughes film will always be The Breakfast Club. It’s not nearly so technically proficient as Planes, Trains and Automobiles and the script isn’t quite so polished. It’s cheesy in places and although overall, the performances are excellent, there are a few wobbly moments to make you cringe.
But despite the flaws, or perhaps because of them, The Breakfast Club remains a powerful and quietly profound study of adolescent angst, social stereotyping and the cruelty and damage, whether unthinking, uncaring, ovebearing or deliberate, that one generation inflicts on the next.
By throwing together five individuals representing the main teenage social groups and forcing them to look beyond those stereotypes to the people underneath, in the process confronting their biased perceptions of and attitudes to each other, while also facing up to their own backgrounds and roles in the social hierarchy, Hughes’ script addresses issues and confronts prejudices that extend far beyond the walls of a high school.
It’s true that The Breakfast Club speaks loudest to the young – those, like the characters, stuck in that confusing, disturbing no-man’s-land between childhood and adulthood and forced to take stock of where the past has led them and what the future might hold. And most of us will have seen the film for the first time when we were of a similar age to the teenage characters. But in truth, there are themes and messages in the film that we would all do well to think about once in a while, regardless of age.
It’s this subtle and deceptively profound side to the film, perhaps, for which Hughes deserves to be most fondly remembered.
There are plenty of great scenes and moments in The Breakfast Club, both dramatic and funny.
One of the most powerful is when Bender (Judd Nelson) faces off against the overbearing bully of a teacher, Mr Vernon (Paul Gleason). This is the best version of the scene I can find online, though it ends a bit earlier than I would like – ideally I’d like to include the exchange that follows on, with Vernon daring Bender, goading him even, to rack up more detention time. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be a complete version available anywhere, so this will have to do for now:
My favourite character in the film is Allison (Ally Sheedy) and this is one of her best scenes: