The Breakfast Club (1985)
At the centre of what was produced (and interpreted) by Hollywood in terms of youth culture during the eighties was more often than not John Hughes. Although his career has gone downhill since writing and producing the smash hit Home Alone, the contribution Hughes made to comedy and the portrait of an entire generation and its peculiarities cannot be underestimated. The Breakfast Club is his undisputed peak (although Ferris Bueller's Day Off fared better at the box office). It is not only an extremely well-written, clever and atmospheric film. It is also a considerable achievement in form and style.
It can be argued that the characters in this film are stereotypical and that the issues discussed are both unoriginal and untypical for the generation. But then you'd overlook the fact that these are high school kids that very often find themselves (voluntarily or not) in a role that they (or their fellow students) feel fit their appearance and/or social position. The Breakfast Club is a brilliant comment on this phenomenon, and what's good is that it doesn't try to solve every question it raises. There's nothing in here that isn't set off by the characters themselves – and they are both a delightful comic mixture and a highly interesting psychological and social study. The main theme is alienation between the kids and the parents/authorities – much of which we've seen before, but there is vitality in the comments made here. And very few of us will have trouble relating to the issues from at least one of the parties' point of view.
Hughes' script is the real genius here. Although it tries to (and to a large extent succeeds in) dealing with more or less existential problems these kids are having in their everyday-life, the film is at its very best when there's nothing going on and the kids are just killing time – talking about everything and nothing. Hughes' dialogue is extremely good – vibrating and creating tension from events that don't have any real value – narratively or thematically. That is the sign of a filmmaker making a portrait from the inside, rather than someone taking a peak inside and claiming to know what he's talking about.
The performances here are brilliant – in their peculiar, 80s fashion. The Breakfast Club is the essential movie for the position of the so-called 'brat-pack', the group of young actors who broke through with high school and youth films in the early to mid-eighties. All the kids' performances are good, but three stand out in particular. Ally Sheedy and Anthony Michael Hall deliver work that is suspiciously real. Sheedy has perhaps the most interesting character (and thus easiest to work with), but Hall really pin-points a typical character you'd find in any school in a genuine and unflashy manner. The most important and powerful performance, however, belongs to Judd Nelson. Although a bit more stylized, the John Bender character is a landmark in youth films. It is delightfully shallow, but still incredibly complex, and Hughes writes his lines so well. Few would disagree that this was Judd Nelson's career high, but for me it is also one of the best performances of the decade.
The Breakfast Club is one of those movies that captures what a whole generation was about. But most importantly, it does so without mocking it and without showing any lack of respect. It is John Hughes' accolade that he manages to make a highly interesting and ceaselessly entertaining film using nothing but five kids, one location and close to no action. Barry Levinson's Diner has often been hailed as the best dialogue-film of the decade. For me The Breakfast Club is the best in that category – ever.
John Bender: "How come Andrew gets to get up? If he gets up, we'll all get up, IT'LL BE ANARCHY!"
"You're not fooling anyone, Bender. The next screw that falls out
is going to be you." Vernon
Vernon: "Shut up, Peewee. You're mine, Bender. For two months, I've gotcha. I've gotcha!"
Vernon: "Now thats it! I'm gonna be right outside those doors. Next time I gonna have to come in here, I'm crackin' skulls."
Bender (to Brian Johnson): "But face it, you're a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie. What would you be doing if you weren't out making yourself a better citizen?"