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Movie Reviews

The Breakfast Club  

The current crop of teenage films includes a number of films whose sole purpose seems to be to gross out the audience. American Pie comes to mind, as well as a number of others. A novel idea would be to make a film about teenagers which actually had some bearing to how real teenagers actually are. A film like The Breakfast Club (1985) was a full-throttled attempt at depicting just such a reality.

What makes this film even more interesting to myself is the fact that it is directed by none other than John Hughes, who resides in my mind as the creator of such silly franchises as the Home Alone series. I never would have pictured him as the cinematic voice of a generation, but he was, in films like Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and this one, which were acclaimed as fairly intelligent films for teenagers. Obviously, as he grew older and more jaded, he lost his talent and gained a lot more money with slick enterprises.
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The film details a day of detention for five students, a true cross-section of the youth of the eighties: the beauty queen, the nerd, the jock, the freak, and the hoodlum. While these are basically types rather than characters, the combination of such personalities ensures some conflict and drama. Also, the actors who play them elevate the cliched figures into actual characters, and the dialogue is well-written.

Of course, much of the time these people simply do not get along, but as the day wears on, they are forced to reveal many things about themselves, and, as a result, about their generation. Discussions about sex, virginity, peer pressure, parental demands, and many other subjects occur in this film. As well, we get a very tyrannical principal, who isn`t (I hope) a principal we would see in a real school, but is effectivly portrayed as a bitter man who has become jaded at what he sees as an ever-worsening attitude amongst his charges. I can`t say I blame him; if he were still in that high school during the past few years (and dodging some bullets), he would have waxed nostalgic for the days when such fine, upstanding students as the Judd Nelson character roamed the halls.

Structurally, the film is interesting, because it actually dares to be basically a one-set play. The only events besides dialogue are the occasional trips outside the library. It is amazing to know that such a talky film existed and got an audience, and also to realize that films have sunk so low so fast that a film like this could probably never be made anymore, unless fornication with some sort of pastry were involved!

Befitting a very chatty film, The Breakfast Club is an actor`s showcase. It is fascinating to see people who I usually don`t think about (Emilo Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Micheal Hall) impress me with good performances. The real star, however, is Judd Nelson, who is without a doubt the most brutal presence in the film, even when you add in the principal. Certainly the least sympathetic moment is when he, in effect, verbally rapes Molly Ringwald with his ugly queries on as to whether she has had sex or not. And he also verbally assaults everyone else with his contempt. Yet, typically, his rage masks past hurts and wounds.

The only thing that I didn`t care for was the very last minute or two, which were a complete crock, with unnecessary romance and a sappy statement about teenagers. I suppose I`m a little too cynical about today`s teenagers to really care about such dramatics. But other than that, The Breakfast Club was a very interesting experience.

David Macdonald

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