Late to the Party: The Breakfast Club

This week’s choice is brought to you by my co-worker Julia, who was kind enough to suggest this one to me when I was rather stuck on which movie to watch. Of course, it’s been suggested by other people before, but she really pinned it down for me.

Click here for the live-tweeting stream. Please note that you can only read the entire stream if you are logged into Twitter.

Also, I didn’t really feel like hunting for pictures, so you’re just going to have text this time. Hope you can forgive me!

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Five students, all fitting a different stereotype, are forced to spend their Saturday in detention together. In their bid to stave off boredom, they open up to each other and learn how very different and very similar they are.


It was a much more dramatic, angsty movie than I had even considered it could be.  I’d never heard what it was actually about, but for whatever reason it’s existed in my mind for years as a comedy. Silly preconceptions. In stark contrast to the disastrous result of my preconceived notions about Night of the Comet, The Breakfast Club’s unexpected depth and realism was the sort of smack in the face that makes you sit up and pay attention.

This lot of what some would call ‘cookie-cutter characters’ would put the film onto a very slippery slope these days. Their stories and motivations likely wouldn’t come into view without a lot of obvious “this is why I’m doing this” sort of detail. In essence, that is all that The Breakfast Club is, but because that’s all it is, it works perfectly. There isn’t an overbearing otherwise-centered plot to distract from the character development, so your entire focus is on the students and their lives’ stories.

Bender’s character bothered me from the off, being the sort of troublemaker that I couldn’t stand when I was in school and still can’t stand now. As with many troublemakers, though, he isn’t self-made; he is the result of the broken home and family in which he’s been forced to live for his entire life. His antics and intrusive questions and comments, the way he chiefly acts out, are essentially what brings the group together; they cause Andrew to rally around Claire, Brian to open up about why he’s so desperate for their approval and acceptance, and Allison to step out of her shell.

Claire, on the other hand, seems to be everything that the perfect teenage girl should be. She’s pretty, she’s popular, she isn’t overly vulgar, and we get the feeling that she has at least a lick of common sense. Her reason for having detention is the most innocent, as well among the most self-serving, and this is because she feels ignored by her family. I find it very difficult to like her. It’s hard for me to empathize with people who seem to have the world at their feet and act out just because they don’t get attention. Claire’s character does, however, bring a certain level of believability and tragedy to the story, so she has earned a modicum of respect from me.

The dynamic between Claire and Bender was fascinating. Two different people on opposite ends of the social scale get under each other’s skin with almost no effort, which made their sudden change in relationship at the end of the movie both completely unexpected and the type of thing that makes you say, “I saw that coming.” Something tells me it wouldn’t have lasted long, but who knows? Teenagers are crazy. Maybe that love/hate line was just taut enough to keep them together. I find myself wondering if Bender would’ve been able to be exclusive to Claire, considering how he talked about his other girlfriends.

And then there’s Allison. She’s … insane, really, but based on the little that we know about her life, she has reason to be. Not all of her ideas are bad ones: she keeps an emergency bag packed in case she takes the chance to run; she makes cereal sandwiches (so brilliant); and, nasty as it is, using dandruff for snow when she’s drawing was pretty friggin’ funny. Her quirks make her interesting and unpredictable, because they are really all we know about her. This is almost ruined for me at the end, though, when Claire gives her a quick make-over and the boys are agape at her transformation. Stupid teen movies and their stupid insistence on making all of the girls gorgeous rather than leaving them as they are. Andrew salvaged it, though, by not saying the typical “you’re beautiful” line, but rather something along the lines of “we can see your face”.  It’s a good point, considering the wild and crazy-awesome mane of hair she had goin’ on before.

Speaking of Andrew, he was by far my favourite character. He played the role of the jock, but rather than being a ham-brained buffoon, he actually had an emotional range and depth. He sticks up for everyone whenever Bender takes a verbal swing at them, shows concern for Allison after she reveals the contents of her run-away bag, and goes so far as to break down while putting himself into the position of the fellow student he assaulted earlier in the week. I’m going to sound horribly cheesy for saying this, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a jock who is out and out as sweet as Andrew is, and I rather wish I had.

It should surprise no one that I related to Brian the most. Not doing well in school would have been my be-all and end-all, in a hyperbolic sense. Thinking of committing suicide because of a failing grade is harsh and desperate and not something that I ever would have done; the one time I was doing that badly in a class, I struggled through for a few weeks, crying through every page of homework until I realized that the class, which would be of almost no use to me, wasn’t worth the stress and panic that I felt whenever I so much as glanced at my textbook. I decided to drop the class and swapped it for something I knew I’d excel in.  Anyway, the pressure that is put on you to succeed academically when that is all you have done in your entire life is rough, but I have to wonder what sort of upbringing he had that would make him that desperate to succeed.

On another note, being the ‘smart kid’ can be alienating if there aren’t any other ‘smart kids’ around. It’s a safety-in-numbers game with unsocialized intellectuals when they’re pushed into a group of people with whom they have nothing in common. When Brian doesn’t have anyone like him to cling to for solidarity, he throws himself at the feet of the other students and gives them any and every opportunity to either mock him for being a goody-two-shoes or to see his strengths and ideas for what they are. It’s both brave and incredibly stupid, in my eyes, but it works for him, so there you are.

Now let’s see, something that isn’t just about the characters … oh yeah. Does anyone else think their school library was about the coolest library ever?! Lord, I would have loved to have access to a library like that growing up. Lucky kids, not knowing what they had …

The Verdict

Brilliant, well-executed and realistic look at the high-school life from the most common stereotypes. The acting was flawless and the story unfolds at just the right pace. I need to buy this movie, pronto.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
iTunes – 4.5 / 5
IMDB – 7.9 / 10
Toria – 5 / 5

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