Call me crazy, but, until quite recently, this 1985 classic wasn’t something that I ever had an interest in seeing. I didn’t know much about it, and I wasn’t really familiar with any of its stars, so I was happy to just leave it be and watch other movies instead. However, my growing interest as a cinephile and this film’s significant mention in last year’s Pitch Perfect, along with some prodding from some friends, led me to finally watch it…and, boy, was I missing out.
The Breakfast Club tells the story of five teenagers from five different social cliques who meet for the first time in detention on a Saturday morning. While they may appear to be from entirely different sides of the social spectrum, they soon come to realize that maybe they aren’t so dissimilar from each other after all.
From the get-go, each character has a well-defined personality…John Bender (Judd Nelson) is a rebellious delinquent with a talent for making sarcastic remarks to the assistant principal (my favorite is, “Screws fall out all the time, sir. The world’s an imperfect place.”), Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) is the popular prom queen, Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) is the jock, Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) is the nerd, and Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) is what they call the “basket case.” Much of the film is driven by Nelson’s character, who initiates most of the conversations and brings the group together in his rather unorthodox way…with his encouragement, the group ventures into the hallways, smokes weed, and shares their deepest secrets. It’s through this sharing of personal information that the film’s prevalent themes are revealed. They learn that each of them has some sort of dysfunctional family or “unsatisfying home life,” as they put it; Bender has an abusive father, Claire’s parents use her as a means to undermine the authority of the other parent, Allison’s parents ignore her, and Brian and Andy both have parents who have unrealistic expectations for them.
There are several themes explored throughout this film: the idea of dysfunctional/unsatisfying home life, social stereotypes and expectations/expectation vs. reality, peer pressure, fighting “the man,” and unlikely friendship. Though these five students are certainly not the same, they are not as different as their social stereotypes would have them believe…they each have some sort of struggle, whether it’s with who they are, who other people think they are, or who other people expect them to be, and it’s this realization that forms the bond that they walk away with at the end of the film. They have transcended what is perceived of them by their outward appearances.
It’s the exploration of these themes and the poignancy of them to our culture, then and even now, that makes this film such a timeless classic. It teaches that there may be more to someone than initially meets the eye, and it teaches that friendships can extend outside of our assumed social circles. This is a coming-of-age film that aims to open your mind to the fact that you are who you choose to be, not what society brands you, and it manages to do this while still remaining entertaining all the way through. If you haven’t seen The Breakfast Club yet, you should. Soon.
Rating: 5 (out of 5)