John Hughes was the director everyone wanted to work with in the 1980s, and for good reason too. His cinema had a warm and wholesome feeling that a few directors had at the time. And in his all-star filmography, perhaps one of the films that rank higher than most is the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club.
The storyline runs thus — A group of teenagers from different cliques are thrown together in detention for a period of eight hours. They are ordered by their Assistant Principal Vernon (Paul Gleason) to not move around and write a 1000 word essay about who they think they are. Initially hesitant and wary of each other, the five teenagers — John, Claire, Andrew, Brian and Allison — in the end, find that despite their different interests and friend circles, they are not as dissimilar as they thought they were.
While the end was all too predictable, it was the way the maker handled the subject matter that’s noteworthy. After all, even before John Hughes’ time, directors had been making films about rebellious, lost teenagers successfully (James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause, Grease, American Graffiti, Carrie to list a few). So what was different about Hughes’ films? While Hughes’ films looked light at the surface, they definitely had something meaningful to say. In The Breakfast Club’s case, it was about tackling stereotypes and breaking our own boundaries. Being limitless and embracing all sides of life. The main characters might cater to certain stereotypes of being a rebel, a nerd or a recluse. But the film also managed to break through those walls via witty and tight writing. Of course, not everything about the film was earth-shatteringly original. Because as Hughes managed to subvert the genre of an American teen drama, he also couldn’t help but stick with some of the genre’s tropes, which involved some makeovers, hickeys and a budding romance.
Hollywood Rewind: Enchanted | Walk the Line | Blood Diamond | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Mortal Kombat | Bridges of Madison County | Edward Scissorhands | Breakfast at Tiffany’s | She’s Gotta Have It | Ever After | The Devil Wears Prada | The Matrix | Creed | Mulan | Ratatouille | Shutter Island | Her | Dead Poets Society | Sleepless in Seattle | Waitress | Pride and Prejudice | The Dark Knight | Before Sunset | School of Rock | About a Boy | A Few Good Men | 50/50 | Begin Again | Brooklyn | Drive | Chocolat | Batman Begins | 10 Things I Hate About You | The Departed | Freedom Writers | Pretty Woman | Dan in Real Life | Jurassic Park | Tangled | Meet Joe Black | Monster’s Ball | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | You’ve Got Mail | Half Nelson | Fight Club | Doubt | American Psycho | Julie and Julia | Forrest Gump | The Silence of the Lambs | Finding Neverland | Roman Holiday| American History X | Tropic Thunder | Before Sunrise | Scent of a Woman | Finding Forrester | Sixteen Candles
The performances were credible too. Emilio Estevez, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy did whatever was required of them. It obviously helped that Ringwald had previously worked with Hughes in another successful but somewhat problematic teen movie, Sixteen Candles. And after appearing in 1986’s Pretty in Pink, Ringwald cemented her status as a teen icon. Her rising star credential helped the film grab more eyeballs.
Bottomline — Don’t go in with the expectation of being surprised, and perhaps, you will be.
The Breakfast Club is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
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