“A movie about a bunch of stereotypes who complain that other people see them as stereotypes.” – Pauline Kael on The Breakfast Club
I think the thing a lot of people struggle with, but rarely talk about, is how a certain stretch of The Breakfast Club is kind of a bummer to sit through. The first two acts, which set up all the characters and have them gleefully spar off one another, is zippy and entertaining and part of why the movie is so re-watchable. There’s a lot of movement and variation early on. The film begins with more of an episodic beat as Hughes mines a boring, Saturday morning detention for all the verbal comedy and visual wit that its worth. Therefore, as soon the film grinds to a halt for an extended group therapy session, things become painfully static and serious. The movie suddenly stops being fun.
But it’s that sequence that secretly makes The Breakfast Clubso fucking great. The rawness in the performances always makes me very uncomfortable. You just want to get back to seeing these characters sassing each other, but Hughes never gives it you again. Despite his characters being rather thin with personal issues that are not particularly original (spoiler: it’s the parents fault!) he still manages to make you care about them enough that when they suddenly start bearing their heart, it’s painful. You want to look away. It’s always tempting to hit that fast-forward button and yet, I never do.
By working with such basic archetypes and keeping them relatively restricted to their own individual schticks, Hughes manages to do a lot with very little. This is such a simple concept for a movie and even in that dramatic stretch, which makes the 90 minute run time feel suddenly overlong, you realise only John Hughes could make this movie. He was the only filmmaker in 1985 who gave enough of a shit about this generation – embodied by and presented as cinematic stereotypes – to actually give them their own movie just to have them talk to one another. By the end you’ll think “hey, I guess stereotypes have feelings too!” It’s a weird fucking movie that could probably be improved upon in a number of ways (like, by not being the whitest movie ever) but the fact it speaks to so many people shouldn’t be ignored. It set a precedent for what “teen” movies were allowed to be and Hughes never made a movie like it ever again. No matter how many times I see it, I’m always thankful that The Breakfast Club exists. It still feels like an achievement.
Watched on blu-ray.