THE BREAKFAST CLUB
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Emilio Estevez, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly
Ringwald, Ally Sheedy
Director: John Hughes
Audio: PCM Mono, DTS 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: January 2, 2018
“Are we gonna be like our parents?”
The Breakfast Club has turned 30…as if I didn’t have enough in my life to make me feel old.
At least I’m at the point in my life where I can look at this film through two different sets of eyes: I can remember being a teenager and the impact this film had on me (and really, all of the country), and I can also watch it with the eyes of an adult closer to Vernon’s (Gleason) age than the kids depicted. Averaging the two experiences gives me my star rating.
I hope at least young movie watchers today can appreciate the juggernaut that was John Hughes in the 80s. A mild mannered writer and director from Chicago, he had a knack for what was on the minds of kids like me, and a way of bringing those things to life in ways funnier, smarter, and more real than we had ever seen. He already scored one hit with Sixteen Candles, but it was The Breakfast Club that cemented his reputation for all time…with this movie, he gave my generation its Rebel Without a Cause.
The premise is simple enough: five high school kids with nothing in common are thrown together for a full Saturday in detention, for various offenses. There’s Bender (Nelson), the criminal who’s no stranger to trouble, Andrew (Estevez), the jock, Claire (Ringwald), the rich spoiled “princess”, Brian (Hall), the nerdy brain, and finally Allison (Sheedy), who is…just plain nuts. These are kids who would never interact with each other in the real high school world, but for 8 hours, they’ll have no choice.
The movie works almost as a chamber play; the library setting rarely changes (even the few times it does is superfluous), and there are five characters on screen: very little action, all dialogue. Yet, the spoken words are key: these characters weren’t just speaking to each other, but a generation of restless, scared, insecure youths like me who were finding out what it was like to see ourselves depicted truthfully and accurately on the screen for the first time.
But in retrospect, and in the full throes of middle age, this movie, which was practically a religion to me as a kid, has become harder and harder to identify with…in fact, sometimes I would go so far as to say it’s slightly painful to even try. It’s not because the language and look and music are all dated…that happens, and frankly, works as nostalgic charm three decades later.
No, it’s because most of us survived those angst-ridden years and lived to tell about it. Most of us at my age can’t help but roll the eyes a little bit. These problems seemed so colossal at the time, but frankly, we had no idea what REAL problems were. Many would probably like to go back to having their only worry in life being their social status. The adult in me would like to visit this library and tell these kids it’s all going to be all right. I mean, so Brian failed shop class, but aced everything else? Today’s Brian, in his late 40s, is probably rich as Croesus.
There was an interesting article online recently that even went so far as to point out the events in this movie COULDN’T happen today. Today’s youths would spend 8 hours in the library staring at their cell phones and not talk. Schools usually rent out their libraries for meetings and events on weekends for extra money. And if Brian brought a gun to school today…even a flare gun…there would be MUCH more to pay than detention.
So, are my insights with 45-year-old eyes as valid as my ones with 15-year-old eyes? Is one more right than the other? Am I really seeing legitimate flaws in this classic movie that almost derail the experience, or have I just become cold and cynical…as Allison said, “when you grow up, your heart dies”?
The film that once said so many things I wanted to say barely speaks to me at all now. Yet, I can still enjoy it as a time capsule experience…the laughter, the dialogue, the explorations, even if I realize no real conclusions were reached. Maybe Brian had it right in his essay, and maybe his essay was speaking to the me of today: what do I care who they think they are? If they progressed through this unusual day with a little bit more understanding of themselves and their places in the world, who am I to say it had no real meaning?
And much like I don’t feel the need to justify my ebbing connection to this film, neither does it need to justify itself to to me.
Criterion starts the new year off right with a terrific 4K transfer of an 80s film. It looks better than ever now, with vivid colors and crisp clean details throughout.
The movie is almost all dialogue, save for a classic score of 80s music to rock up the soundtrack. “Don’t You Forget About Me” is a song that only takes a few bars to transport old farts like me back to the 80s, and I usually welcome the trip. Balance is much better here than in previous offerings, and you have the choice of original mono (best balance) or uncompressed 5.1 (more fun).
There are some fun extras with this disc, including a commentary by stars Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson…a nice listen! There are also new interviews with Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, a video essay read by Nelson featuring Hughes' production notes, a 2008 documentary, almost an hour of deleted and extended scenes, promotional and archive interviews, excerpts from an AFI seminar with Hughes, a 1999 radio interview, a segment from 1985 from the Today Show with the cast, an audio interview with Ringwald, and the trailer.
The Breakfast Club spoke to a generation of youths like no other film, but like some works of art like The Catcher in the Rye, it just no longer works so well when our teen years are long gone. Though I point out apparent flaws, let the conclusion be that I do, and will always, cherish this film for what it once meant to me, and for always being able to remind me of what I once was, as well as to appreciate what I’ve become just a little bit more. This Criterion Blu-ray is officially the ultimate way to experience this movie again...or for the first time.