Film and Documentary

The Breakfast Club: A Retro Review

What do athletes and prom queens have to do with geeks and stoners? The Breakfast Club suggests the answer is this: a lot more than you might think.

It’s Saturday, March 24, 1984 at Shermer High School in Chicago. At a little before 7:00 a.m., five high school students arrive to serve a day of detention for crimes and misdemeanors committed at school. There’s pampered Claire ( the “princess”), star wrestler Andrew (the “athlete”), over-achiever Brian (the “brain”), oddball Allison (the “basket case”) and, finally, the classic rebel without a cause, John Bender (the “criminal”).

Teacher-in-charge, Richard Vernon struts in to sternly give them explicit instructions on how they are not to talk, or otherwise engage with each other. No seat changing, and absolutely “no funny business.” He tells them to write a 1000 word essay on “who they are”, then he leaves the room. (I always thought it was odd he never took the roll, and had no clue who was actually supposed to be there?)

While I absolutely loved this movie, the few faults are glaring ones. For instance, why does it take over an hour to find out Allison’s name? When the kids “escape” and go roaming the hallways (basically just to get Bender’s weed), why do they keep running into the teacher even though they keep going in opposite directions? Why does the obviously over-controlling teacher suddenly  abandon his post to go off to the basement and snoop in sealed employee personnel files, only to be busted by the janitor? Then, they sit down and drink beer, while the teens are left to their own devices, so they trash the library and smoke weed?

I thought the remarkable casting was truly spot on. The movie stars Molly Ringwald as Claire Standish; Emilio Estevez as Andrew Clark; Judd Nelson as John Bender; Anthony Michael Hall as Brian Johnson; Ally Sheedy as Allison Reynolds; Paul Gleason as clueless and out of touch teacher Richard Vernon; and John Kapelos as the often hilarious, and very wise Carl the janitor.

Very few movie makers can do teen angst quite like John Hughes could. Even 35+ years later, this movie holds up. It’s very well done, articulate and funny, as well as having a few somber, and poignant moments as the teens struggle to break free from the bonds of the cliques they belong to. Only Bender remains pretty volatile throughout the story, but we’re eventually taught that his alienation and rage are, very sadly, the product of a father who beats and belittles him.        Andrew’s angst at having taped together a weaker classmates’ buns is palpable. Allison reveals she’s not even supposed to be there, she just had nothing better to do.

Overall, the movie is truly hilarious, if taken simply at face value. Bender has some of the best lines.  “Eat my shorts,” and “do you slip her the hot beef injection” are the 2 that are firmly implanted in pop culture history. Carl the janitor steals the show with his quips and one-liners, especially when he reveals he goes through the students’ lockers. Plus the theme song, Simple Minds Don’t You Forget About Me puts an exclamation point on it. Overall, this is  a very fun and engaging movie, and one that’s well worth seeing again.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]