Celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club is still the quintessential teen comedy. While many filmmakers have tried to capture that awkward, difficult oh so frustrating period where you are no longer a child and not quite an adult few have managed to find Hughes’ complex blend of comedy and smart observation.
Its intelligence comes from presenting us with five, on the surface clichéd high school stereotypes. The athlete; Emilio Estevez’s wonderful blend of moralistic jock mixed with frustrated angst, the brain; Anthony Michael Hall’s awkward, almost Hughes like avatar, the princess; played with aching levels of vanity and hidden insecurities by Molly Ringwald, the head case; Ally Sheedy injecting a wonderful sense of eccentricities and happiness with her lot in life and Judd Nelson’s conflicted criminal who is determined to stick to his stereotype in the face of painful adversity. And then, with funny and emotional pathos, filtering them through the slow boiling environment of a Saturday morning detention, into the reality of who these people really are.
Hughes isn’t interested in examining the stereotypes; he’s interested in dissecting the cruel politics and pressures of high school. These kids are all vulnerable, all suffering from insecurities and all masking them with identities assigned to them by negative influences like peer-pressure, teachers and parents. They all laugh, they all bleed and we bask in knowing that we weren’t the only ones who felt like this both then and even now.
Of course it birthed the Brat-pack but The Breakfast Club didn’t just introduce the world to a new generation of actors. It broke the mold on Hollywood teenage angst. These characters, like the film itself, are never what they appear on the surface, they’re textured, nuanced and real. From moments of brilliant humour; witness as each individual unpacks their lunch, to scenes that will have you welling up with sympathy and brutal familiarity as to how the rollercoaster ride of high school and coming-of-age impact us all.
Like last year’s Boyhood The Breakfast Club taps into a universality of these emotions. Each character is frustrated by the assumptions made of them yet they know it’s also what defines them, what sets them apart from others and makes them, in their own unique ways, who they are. Will they all be friends on Monday morning? Almost certainly not, this was a pause in time, a moment of where they could be the inner voice inside telling them they’re faking it. And it’s for this reason that Hughes’ film has such staying power, because whether at school, in the office, within the family or friendship dynamic we know we have to play certain parts even if it pains us to do so.
More than just nostalgia The Breakfast Club is a cinematic rights-of-passage that will make you laugh and cry simultaneously. Punch the air, freeze frame, Don’t You Forget About Me – Not a chance.