I had the opportunity to see the 80’s teen movie The Breakfast Club at a special screening recently. It was to help launch the publication of Kevin Smokler’s book, Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ‘80s Teen Movies. Kevin was there along with John Hughes son James for Q&A following the film.
I was familiar already with The Breakfast Club having seen this John Hughes classic when it was originally released in 1985. It is rated R.
Five teens labeled as delinquent are sentenced to an entire Saturday in the high school library for various infractions. Supervised by slimy Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), they spend eight-plus hours getting to know each other, some for the first time.
There’s Clair Standish (Molly Ringwald), a pampered girl in the clique everyone wants to be in; Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), an athlete hoping to get into college on a wrestling scholarship; Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), the brainy kid not in the popular kids world; John Bender (Judd Nelson), the bad boy with the mouth; and Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), a wallflower unseen and unheard.
We are let in on their innermost secrets as they bond and open up to each other during their imprisonment. Judd Nelson plays John brilliantly. Everyone is good, but he really shines. It was very uncomfortable watching him verbally abuse the other teens, and especially his sexualized harassment of Claire. It has been a long time since I watched this film, and none of that is funny. At the same time, we feel for John, how he grew into the bad boy through nothing other than the parents he was born to. Judd has continued to work as an actor, but this was his most notable role.
Emilio Estevez has gone on to be a writer and director, helming the films The Way and Bobby. Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy have continued to work as actresses, and Anthony Michael Hall has appeared in The Dead Zone.
Some of the discussion after the film focused on the ethnic makeup of the group of students, all white from the suburbs of Chicago. Back in 1985, that town would be all white. Today, it would be much more diverse ethnically, and be a different film. The issue of inclusion is a big one due to the discussions at the Academy Awards to be more diverse for ethnic and LGBTQ actors. John Hughes films reflected the times of 30 some years ago, and the times, they have changed.
Even so, if you’re a student of film, or even just a film lover, The Breakfast Club is a must see. Much more serious than some of John Hughes’ other films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and the Home Alone movies, it peers intimately at high school age adolescents and really gets in their psyches and what that stage of life is for them.
Give Kevin Smokler’s book a look too. You can order it by clicking on this link: Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to '80s Teen Movies