Today marks 30 years since the release of The Breakfast Club. It’s one of those films that I never get tired of, no matter how often I watch it. It’s also one of those influences that’s never left me.
To be honest, I love all of John Hughes’ output. Pretty in Pink, which is mostly Molly Ringwald pouting; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with the finest opening monologue of any film; St. Elmo’s Fire with… well, let’s all take a few minutes for that theme song.
But The Breakfast Club has to be my favourite. I first saw it as a teenager, late at night with a bout of insomnia. At first, I was sceptical. I only knew the film for having that Simple Minds song on the soundtrack. This was what all the fuss was about, though? Five kids stuck in one room for an hour and a half? What could be good about that? And then the first scene in the library happened.
(To be honest, you could just pick all of Judd Nelson’s scenes out and they would all be perfect. Someone’s already done just that.)
What makes this, and the whole film, perfect is that it takes boatloads of good characterisation and dialogue to pull off a story that takes place for the most part in one room. And Hughes hits the mark. Five characters who could easily have been straight-up overdone tropes are subverted every which way, from their clothes right down to their motivations.
Thinking about it, that’s what appeals to me the most. The princess is riven with peer pressure. The weirdo is only weird because she craves the attention she lacks at home. The delinquent comes from an abusive family. They’re not as straightforward as they look, and that’s what draws you in. Oh, and John Bender really stuck in my head because he gets the best scenes, like this one where he goes berserk. *ducks to avoid f-bombs*
There’s some pretty dark subject matter too, though not quite Heathers-level. You just want to give them all a hug and tell them it’ll be okay, and not all adults are bastards. (Come on- by the end you want to punch that head teacher. Adults are horrible in John Hughes Land.) It’s such a far cry from the awful, sterile, patronising stuff like Twilight, where Blankcanvas Doe-eyes gazes sadly at Anodyne Sparklydracula and Teenwolf Moodystare, and you could make an IKEA bookcase out of the dialogue. We won’t see the likes of The Breakfast Club again. Not while we have the sort of young adult dross in cinemas now, and tropes hewn from the finest bullshit.
I miss you, John. Hope that Saturday detention in the sky is as fun as the one you wrote for us.