The Breakfast Club
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The Breakfast Club

Can be considered a very natural to have a nostalgic feeling when a movie you enjoyed in high school is released on the DVD/Blu-ray is a 20th-anniversary edition. However, when the film is one that your soul with your wife after getting her parents to babysit your one-year-old child is marketed as ‘30th-anniversary collector’s edition’, that goes beyond nostalgia and firmly into the realm of making your old. The film that incited these feelings was a milestone opus filmmaker, John Hughes, his 1985 masterpiece, ‘The Breakfast Club.' This was a movie that was targeted to a very specific program, the ‘X Generation.’ Generational demarcations are germane to understanding the impact of this film, the X Generation, individuals born after my generation, ‘The Baby Boomers,' before the Generation We Would Give Birth to, Really Known As the ‘Y Generation.' Under normal circumstances, precise attention to the birth year audience members would be closed insignificant but in this particular case is a significant part of why this film has become such a lasting example of cinematic history. John Hughes was one of the most influential directors of his time. Fans almost universally accept it, critics and film historians, that Hughes played a major part in defining both the decade and the generation growing up within it.

The style embraced by John Hughes as a director dominated the filmmakers of his day. As a screenwriter’s subject matter, predominantly exploring themes growing up in the 80s, but one of his most lasting contributions is introducing the group of young actors would become the A-list stars in the coming years. Our parents, the ones that fought in World War II garnering the name ‘The Greatest Generation,' where entertained by a group of singers, comedians, and actors collectively known as ‘The Rat Pack.' Envied by many men for their freewheeling, excessive lifestyle in such places as Las Vegas, the group included such legendary performance as; Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin. John Hughes introduced younger, contemporary personalities that would widely become known as ‘The Brat Pack.' Instead of converging on Las Vegas these twentysomething stars would frequent the latest venue for excessive libations; the nightclubs of New York City and Los Angeles. A roster of the Rat Pack, for the most part, comprise the principal list actors in this movie; Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and Ally Sheedy. Not only would they be frequently found several other high school/teen angst films by John Hughes, but they would go on to drive ticket sales are just appearing in the film.

John Hughes was able to touch his audience by making a substantial emotional connection with readily identifiable characters. He also set his stories against the background of familiar events common to most teenagers such as a sweet 16 party, or in the case of this film preschool detention. Okay, I have to confess that in high school I was very much a by the books kind of student never received detention, I understood the concept and its purpose. Intended by the faculty to punish and perhaps shame one sentence to the attention, to those most likely to receive it on a regular basis it was little more than a place to raise the now or to time. The core of this film is that it offers an opportunity for the filmmaker to bring together an exceptionally divergent group of students together in one place sharing the same experience. This was considered a major departure from the high school movies that proceeded, and a large number of those that would follow. Teenagers in high school are inevitably depicted as being defined by the clique that they belong as they share a Saturday sentence confined to the library and the punishment known as’ The Breakfast Club.' The progression of the story is how the boundaries of the individual cliques began to dissolve, and reform is something new.

John Hughes managed to the major cliques familiar to any high school movie. Andy Clark (Emilio Estevez) is the high school jock, a state champion wrestler. Brian Ralph Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) is the ‘A’ student with Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) is the pampered princess of the class. Rounding off the roster of detainees on the darker side of the group; John Bender (Judd Nelson) as a delinquent and Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) providing the emotionally and psychologically damaged girl. Normally in charge of them as the designated adult supervision is the assistant principal Dick Vernon (Paul Gleason), who has the diluted perception that his authority bears the kids, "you mess with the bull, you get the horns." The only other adult that wanders in and out of the story is the school janitor, Carl Reed (John Kapelos). As Mr. Vernon explains to them, their punishment includes the following provisions. They are to remain in your seats without speaking or sleeping until 4 PM, almost 9 hours already. During that time they are to write a 1000 word essay on ‘what do you think you are.' All the students in the group Vernon have had the most contact with Bender as a frequent offender in common fixture in detention. There is a great amount of animosity pre-existing between the two and Bender has absolutely no respect Vernon either as an authority figure or human being.

It should come as no surprise that ordering a group of teenagers sit quietly in the seats almost 9 hours while composing an essay is not something that is likely to be obeyed. Predictably it is Bender instigates the rule breaking that will persist with the entire course of this sentence and the film. The rebellious young man begins to pick fights with his fellow ‘inmates.' Considering the diversity among the group members and Bender’s predilection for stirring up trouble, it doesn’t take long before the ‘sitting rule quietly’ is not even a memory. In a strange but very believable way, the confinement quickly erodes the boundaries between each of the students and their innermost secrets begin to bubble to the surface. A clue as to why the acts out in such a way could be limited to the fact he comes from a very abusive home life. Allison is a compulsive liar, and Claire is a virgin was taunted and pressured by her friends. They also discover that there is a major bond between that is far stronger than the superficial definitions of their cliques; they all have exceptionally strained relationships with their parents.

There are so many ways that the success of a movie can be gauged. The most important thing for the studio has always been the Box office revenue. The executives focused on how great the return on the budgeted investment.Considering the film had an estimated budget of $1 million in a gross over $45 million studio executives are ecstatic the film received critical acclaim although it was largely overlooked during the award season not receiving the industry accolades mostly controlled by the previous generation. The genius of this storm is held well spoke to generation X, but it did so with such intrinsic truth that even now over 30 years later it is easily relatable to those watching. I school will always be a time cliques, pairing us for life as adults are the only thing that changes the parameters of the cliques and the repercussions for inclusion and exclusion. John Hughes was able to tap into the complex emotional state of teenagers in such a fashion that many felt his movie spoke directly to them. The themes of alienation and constantly being misunderstood by other teenagers and the adults proves that teen angst is not something that belongs to one specific generation but that it is a persistence quality of the human condition. Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from this film is one that also transcends the age of the viewer; cliques are based on the most superficial criteria. Once you make an effort to get to know a person on a deeper level discover there are far aspects of common than differences. There’s been another great release of this film but the special edition those include some extras that go to great lengths to elucidate what serves the foundation for this movie. The matter which generation you happen to call your own, this is a fitting film add to your collection and periodically revisit.

Finally, this film has achieved another means to recognize the substantial contribution to the zeitgeist of a generation lasting effects on filmmaker techniques going forward. The ‘Breakfast Club’ is the latest in a continuing effort undertaken by the Criterion Collection to preserve significant examples of cinema as a means of artistic expression. The mandate of Criterion has always been the preservation of the filmmaker’s artistic vision by presenting their work as closely as possible to the theatrical premiere. When they further select a title to be remaster the movie to high definition the details of the video take on such a new life that the nuances previously missed can be ascertained to the betterment your understanding and appreciation of their work.

bulletAudio commentary from 2015 featuring actors Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson
bulletNew interviews with actors Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy
bulletNew video essay featuring director John Hughes s production notes, read by Nelson
bulletDocumentary from 2015 featuring interviews with cast and crew
bullet50 minutes of never-before-seen deleted and extended scenes
bulletRare promotional and archival interviews and footage
bulletExcerpts from a 1985 American Film Institute seminar with Hughes
bullet1999 radio interview with Hughes
bulletSegment from a 1995 episode of NBC's Today show featuring the film's cast
bulletAudio interview with Molly Ringwald from a 2014 episode of This American Life
bulletPLUS: An essay by critic David Kamp

Posted 03/09/2015            12/08/2017

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