Written by Susan Calman

Arts

Rated or Dated: The Breakfast Club

Standard Issue writers have been revisiting an album/film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. This week, we’ve made Susan Calman spend her Saturday morning inside, watching The Breakfast Club.

Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club. Photo: Universal Pictures.

What and why: Released 30 years ago this month, The Breakfast Club is a coming-of-age comedy drama film written, produced and directed by John Hughes. It stars the cream of the crop of young American talent of the 1980s – Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy – and tells the tale of a group of high-school misfits forced to spend time in detention together. Filmed for a budget of only a million dollars, it was a mainstay of pyjama parties in the 80s and a must-see for all teenagers.

Rated or dated: That small collection of words doesn’t do the film justice. One of a number of so-called Brat Pack films, The Breakfast Club is, along with Pretty in Pink, one of the greatest teen movies of all time. Unlike films of today, where angst drips off the screen, through the course of TBC the Princess, the Athlete, the Brain, the Basket Case and the Criminal find that they have more in common than they thought.

One reason I love this film is that, to the young Calman, it appeared be entirely populated by the coolest people I had ever seen in my life. Another is that I was never once given detention at school and this movie made it seem like the best thing ever. I spent several years after I first watched it, trying to get into trouble just so I could meet someone like Judd Nelson.

I particularly loved the character played by Ally Sheedy. She and Molly Ringwald form an unlikely friendship and I suppose I hoped one of the popular girls at my school would similarly take me under their wing and make me pretty. I even practised putting on lipstick like Molly did and, if you’ve seen the film you’ll know how difficult that is.

“The soundtrack, the honesty of the young cast, who still hadn’t been swallowed up by stardom, and the fundamental theme that you never really know someone from how they look are all joyous.”

If I’m very honest, it is a bit dated. Purely because these days they’d all be bullying each other online instead of in person and I suspect they’d have shared their traumatic family experiences in a blog. But, in essence, it’s still a wonderful example of how brilliant low-budget filmmaking can be.

The fast-cutting of films like Twilight might make it seem slow, but I prefer the lingering looks to camera, the fact characters can develop in their own time without it feeling like a film comprised of 50 music videos.

Each of the cliques represented in the film still exist today, although the names may have changed. But it’s as valid a concept 30 years later as it was then.

The soundtrack, the honesty of the young cast, who still hadn’t been swallowed up by stardom, and the fundamental theme that you never really know someone from how they look are all joyous. My advice is to find someone who hasn’t watched it and force them to sit on the sofa and share the experience. Then find a school playing field and recreate the final scene. You won’t regret it.

“Dear Mr Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”

@SusanCalman

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Written by Susan Calman

Susan is a comedian and writer who sometimes appears on things like the News Quiz and QI.