In my opinion, “The Breakfast Club” is John Hughes’ best film. Its bittersweet story of teenage stereotypes and peer pressure is heartbreakingly real. The weight that these teenagers feel from society and their peers is clearly evident. Five teenagers are assigned all-day Saturday detention for various reasons that we find out throughout the film. Each character fulfils a certain high-school stereotype; the athlete, the nerd, the basket-case, the rebel and the princess.
The bleak monotony of their everyday lives is hilariously displayed through the microcosm of the detention and high school setting. The entire film is set inside a school with only two scenes containing exterior shots, though both are on school grounds. This creates a very insular feel to the film, giving the audience a reminder of what it feels like to be stuck in school.
Normally I would denounce the use of stereotypes in films as they are usually crude stock portraits that simplify the teenage experience. However, in “The Breakfast Club” while they indulge in the typical aforementioned stereotypes they portray them so realistically and with such complexity that I forgive Hughes for his stereotyping. All of the characters within this film are complex and tragic. Despite their different positions in the high-school hierarchy they all are trying to meet society’s expectations of them. Whether it be getting straight A’s or getting caught smoking. This film shows that once people have decided in their minds what kind of person you are they immediately cast assumptions upon you. This is exemplified in the character of Mr Vernon whose obvious bias towards Bender allows the audience to empathise with the intimidating rebel character wonderfully depicted by Judd Nelson.
Another element of this film which surprised me was the smoking of marijuana in the library by the five main characters. But the really surprising thing was that none of them got caught. Normally in films targeted to a younger demographic the moral “crime and punishment” lesson is rammed down the throat of the viewer. However, in this film the characters are allowed to commit numerous acts of rebellion without retribution. Despite the fact that all five characters are in detention they seem to break out of their “prison”, literally and metaphorically. The only punishment is Bender’s isolation and emotional abuse by Mr Vernon which achingly demonstrates one of the reasons why Bender is the way he is. The stellar cast of Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy demonstrate Hughes’ eye for casting. All five actors peaked in this film with the performances hitting exactly the right note somewhere between frustrated rebellion and bittersweet acceptance.
This film clearly demonstrates John Hughes’ ability to empathetically portray teen characters that his audiences can relate to. I’m giving this film a four out of five because not only is it one of my favourite movies but I think it universally speaks to teenagers everywhere- a feat that every filmmaker aspires to… genuinely connecting with their audience.