Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Breakfast Club

I've enjoyed John Hughes' work from the 80s and very early 90s, but this is the first I've actually seen from the whole teenager thing that really made him famous. And it still mostly works, despite it being 25 years later and me being several years removed from high school. Hughes wrote a lot of crap after he stopped directing, but the man remembered what being young was like. The premise of The Breakfast Club is a bit of a stretch, but he still captures the situation better than most filmmakers ever seem to. It might have affected me more if I was the right age, though I suspect I still would have been wary of its overly idealistic idea of what's really in the hearts of kids everywhere.

So five students from various walks of life at a school are forced to come in on Saturday for detention, and while at first they butt heads over their differences, they bond over their common animosity against the principal in charge of their punishment, and all become friends before the day is over. The movie is at its best though when it acknowledges the truth - when Monday comes, the odds that they'd still be friendly with each other under the pressure of their social circles are slim at best. It's a rough moment, especially for the more outcast characters who don't see why it has to be that way. I don't really buy that they'd become that close after a few hours together, but that scene does a lot to save it.

Performance-wise, the kids and the principal do a pretty good job. Judd Nelson's character is more or the less the lead even if he doesn't get top billing, and his work is uneven if still effective. He seems to be trying just a bit too hard to be different, although a lot of it is just the best he can do with the imperfect script. The rest of the kids stand out less, and Emilio Estevez was the only one to really have a noticeable career after the 80s, though Molly Ringwald was quite famous for a while. Paul Gleason's principal was somewhat ridiculous in how much of a dick he is to an obviously troubled student, but there's a bit more to the character than it might seem at first, and his overly macho tirades are pretty funny. He's not the focus though. It's a movie about the kids, and while I didn't think it was great, it's still a part of pop culture canon. Plus that 80s soundtrack is something. Glad I saw it.

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