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Episode 152 - The Breakfast Club (w/ Christy Lemire)

Episode 152 - The Breakfast Club (w/ Christy Lemire)  

45 members have voted

  1. 1. Should "The Breakfast Club" enter The Canon?

    • Yes
      32
    • No
      13


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This week, film critic Christy Lemire joins Amy to discuss the 1985 John Hughes film “The Breakfast Club.” They’ll touch on the film’s nostalgia appeal, its interesting individual character arcs, and the parental issues of the main characters. Plus, they find out where the cast is now and examine the dynamic between Emilio Estevez’s Andy and Molly Ringwald’s Claire.

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As someone who’s around the age of all these characters, I feel like I’ve met all these people, some I’ve interacted with recently. Many will classify The Breakfast Club as a teen comedy but I look at it more as a character study. Hughes takes his time breaking down our five main characters piece by piece. At the core of The Breakfast Club is a film about identity. All of the characters are putting up a facade and which are slowly stripped down. By the end all of them revealed their true selves. As soon as the credits roll, I was left with a question, “when Monday rolls around, will those facade’s come back up?”. I think it’s interesting how we never got a sequel or something equivalent to Fuller House. We will never know how they turn out or if those facade’s stayed up. Hopefully that all made sense.

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I have such fond memories of seeing the Breakfast Club over the years - at home, in theaters, on cable - and I think that it resonated with me in high school even though I graduated almost 30 years after it came out - I mean it opens with a Bowie quote. It was one of the movies that legitimately made me feel like I belonged somewhere (even if that place was in front of the TV or movie screen). I love BREAKFAST CLUB, but did have to really think about its place in The Canon. The women are super undeveloped on the page (despite nuanced performances that make them worthwhile), some of the jokes don't quite land, the psychology is overly simplistic, and it is absolutely problematic through a modern lens. But despite the things against it, it still is so iconic, such a cultural touchstone, that its shortcomings almost become an important part of film academia. I know that can seem like a cop out, but this is probably the quintessential Hughes movie, and for good reason. For me, it speaks to kids and adults about how inescapable and tragic being misunderstood can feel. Don't show me class on Monday, but let me live in detention on Saturday. Absolutely YES

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I guess I'll start with the negatives. Amy and Christy are spot-on when they mention how tragically underwritten the character of Allison is. It's to Ally Sheedy's credit that she's able to flesh out the character as much as she does, and she makes Allison feel oh-so-close to people I knew in high school: the periphery people in each class who are just a general type of misfit, clever but not motivated enough to be a Brian, mischievous but not contemptible enough to be a Bender, who come up with biting, cynical, sarcastic criticism of Claires and Andrews but who know that the potential blowback of sharing such wit around anyone but their closest friends is not worth it. There are hints of that in Allison, but the missing pieces are filled in with "she's just crazy" in a really dissatisfying way, and the idea that she would fall for Andrew seems unearned. I feel like she would be uninterested in someone who as dishonest about who they are as Andrew is, and I would have bought a romance between her and Brian much more readily. As it is, her arc ends up looking like Sandy's in Grease: wear the right clothes and makeup, and you too can date a sleazebag.

 

I get Amy's criticism of how Claire is treated as well. Although Claire is at least a more fully-realized character, she also lacks a great arc. Her "relationship" with Bender at the end feels like she's simply fetishizing his rebelliousness (and possibly his poverty) to achieve an effect on observing bystanders. I don't buy at all that she values him as a human being, and in that sense, she changes very little over the course of the movie, she's just switching up the window dressing on her dishonest facade. But I don't know how much I see this as a fault of the film. Not everybody can change in one Saturday, and maybe Claire doesn't get a breakthrough in this one.

 

So I suppose I'll turn to the positives next. The comparison to Rebel Without a Cause is an interesting and apt one, as I can't think of any other movies that so adeptly analyze the generational gap from the point of view of the younger generation. While Rebel featured proto-Baby-Boomers as the angsty teens, The Breakfast Club now casts them as terrible parents to the new class of angsty teens. Could Jim from Rebel Without a Cause be Claire's rich dad, Bender's abusive dad, or Andrew's domineering dad? More likely I see him as Brian's dad, not knowing how to encourage his son without pressuring him, and forcing Brian to have a similar freakout as Jim did. While The Breakfast Club is not the masterpiece that Rebel Without a Cause is, I love how much Breakfast Club continues that conversation. (Anyone have recommendations for films from a Millennial point of view about clashes with their Gen X parents?)

 

There's so much to love in the performances. As mentioned in the podcast, by allowing the actors to make a lot of character choices, they all seem like much more realistic characters and we understand so much about each of them from all the work done that's not explicitly in the dialogue, from gestures or eye-contact or avoidance of eye-contact or just the guarded way each of them addresses each other. This film works as well as it does because the five actors bring their characters to life in these ways.

 

Finally, although I greatly enjoy this film and would probably vote yes into the Canon on that merit alone, the cultural impact of The Breakfast Club makes this a no-brainer for inclusion. Christy mentioned a "Family Guy" episode, while I immediately thought of the "Community" pilot, as well as a great episode of "Futurama" where Fry hides his good luck charm in his vinyl copy of The Breakfast Club soundtrack ("Don't you mean 'breakfast club sandwich'?"). It's undoubtedly one of the most often parodied films of its era, owing largely to how synonymous the film is with its theme, "Don't You (Forget About Me)". I am incapable of thinking about one of them without thinking about the other, and I mean that in the best possible way. This film (along with St. Elmo's Fire, which came out just a few months later) established the Brat Pack, for better or worse. And this film is largely responsible for making John Hughes a household name. I still would have loved a versus episode between Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, just to add in a little extra suspense. On a solo episode, The Breakfast Club has to get in. I vote yes.

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This is one of those movies (like The Avengers) that I think is "good, not great," but is also such a pop-culture icon that it can't really be denied. So I'll just say up front that I vote yes.

 

I also think that even with some of the "problematic" aspects, there is still something about this film that is compulsively watchable. That's an accomplishment for a movie that takes place entirely in one static location and has no real plot to speak of. When you make that choice (and I have to believe John Hughes was setting a challenge for himself), then the writing has to be strong -- not just containing depth of character, but also in terms of dramatic construction, constantly revealing new things to the audience. It might take away some of the character's depth to have Ally Sheedy's "basket case" girl hardly say anything until about an hour into the movie, but it also means that when she does speak up, you're riveted. She's more memorable for that choice.

 

The shot selection and editing are also very strong, in subtle ways. I've always loved the ways Hughes (and Howard Deutch) cut their films to fit the music. Hughes was a good director. Not a flashy one, but a good one. Even if you say the actresses elevate the weaknesses in his writing, he also cast them and rehearsed them. The performances of all the actors feel organic and natural, not forced. Getting good performances is part of directing.

 

I liked that Amy and Christy talked about having "mixed" feelings on Hughes, because I feel the same. His best movies certainly "work," from the standpoint of dramatic construction: they are entertaining, funny, moving, have memorable characters, etc., but there's also a kind of contradictory message to most of them. He's empathetic to his characters, but also has a conservative streak and is reluctant to let his movies fully break from social norms. You can see it here in how the final romantic pairings seem forced, and how for some reason the female weirdo (Ally Sheedy) wants a makeover but the male one (Bender) doesn't. You can see it in how the leads in Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink ultimately have to wind up with conventionally attractive and desirable partners, never fully accepting their differences from the norm. You can see it in how Ferris Bueller idolizes the most privileged, self-centered character in the film's universe and never has him reflect on how many advantages he has. Maybe the only Hughes teen comedy to actually stick to its guns on class conflict was Some Kind of Wonderful, but of course that's the least remembered among them. And all of that said, I enjoy all of these movies. They're very watchable!

 

Finally, if you want to talk about Hughes' meanness coming through on screen, maybe we should examine Steve Martin's character in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, which is the other 80s Hughes film I'd consider for Canon placement.

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As someone who’s around the age of all these characters, I feel like I’ve met all these people, some I’ve interacted with recently. Many will classify The Breakfast Club as a teen comedy but I look at it more as a character study. Hughes takes his time breaking down our five main characters piece by piece. At the core of The Breakfast Club is a film about identity. All of the characters are putting up a physode and slowly strip them down. By the end all of them revealed their true selves. As soon as the credits roll, I was left with a question, “when Monday rolls around, will those physode’s come back up?”. I think it’s interesting how we never got a sequel or something equivalent to Fuller House. We will never know how they turn out or if those physode’s stayed up. Hopefully that all made sense.

 

Your comment here makes sense, if (I assume) by "physode" you mean "facade."

 

(I don't mean to be pedantic, but I think some others might also be confused by the spelling.)

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You can see it in how the leads in Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink ultimately have to wind up with conventionally attractive and desirable partners, never fully accepting their differences from the norm.

 

To be fair, Hughes' ending of Pretty in Pink had Molly Ringwald's character winding up with Duckie, not Blane. (I feel like this came up in the Canon episode for Pretty in Pink 3 years ago, I'm having deja vu.)

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As someone who’s around the age of all these characters, I feel like I’ve met all these people, some I’ve interacted with recently. Many will classify The Breakfast Club as a teen comedy but I look at it more as a character study. Hughes takes his time breaking down our five main characters piece by piece. At the core of The Breakfast Club is a film about identity. All of the characters are putting up a facade and which are slowly stripped down. By the end all of them revealed their true selves. As soon as the credits roll, I was left with a question, “when Monday rolls around, will those facade’s come back up?”. I think it’s interesting how we never got a sequel or something equivalent to Fuller House. We will never know how they turn out or if those facade stayed up. Hopefully that all made sense.

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To be fair, Hughes' ending of Pretty in Pink had Molly Ringwald's character winding up with Duckie, not Blane. (I feel like this came up in the Canon episode for Pretty in Pink 3 years ago, I'm having deja vu.)

 

Right, and then they gender-flipped and stuck with their original ending for Some Kind of Wonderful, which I enjoy more on a story level (though it doesn't have as many memorable scenes as PiP).

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I'm a young guy who only watched this recently, and I found it to be gross, unimpressive, and boring. As with most John Hughes projects, the treatment of women leaves a lot to be desired, especially since Judd Nelson sexually harasses Molly Ringwald and they end up together (not even gonna talk about Ally Sheedy's 'transformation'). I don't know how anyone relates to this movie (especially since I was the right age to relate to it), it consists of a bunch of stereotypes complaining that they're stereotypes, I didn't find it funny or emotionally involving, and I don't even think it connected well to that sense of grand teenage narcissism as well as dozens of other teen movies. I have to think there's some sort of nostalgic lens (even for people my age) that makes this movie a sort of high school ideal, something that people decide is relatable because it's comfortable to think that.

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I strongly disagree with the assessment Vernon is a bad teacher. The older I get, it couldn't be clearer he's a guy at his wit's end dealing with Bender, who make no mistake is a delinquent. We have no idea what has transpired before the events of The Breakfast Club outside of Bender pulling a false alarm, and the implication is this wasn't Vernon's first (or second, third, Hell even fourth) run-in with him.

 

There's a wonderful moment that solidified this. After the showdown with Bender and the door slams (with Bender's yelling "FUCK YOU!"), Vernon just stops a moment and sighs. The sadness in his face said it all. He's not a bad teacher or a bad guy. He's just having a bad day and he's just as stuck there as they are.

 

If anyone says they could handle this same situation with Bender better than Vernon, you're lying your ass off.

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I have a complicated relationship with THE BREAKFAST CLUB. I first saw it when I was far too young, (maybe 7, I think), and my undeveloped mind was somewhat traumatized by the idea that teenagers had such serious problems. I wasn't used to watching movies in which any characters were reduced to tears, and suddenly I was watching people who were only slightly older than myself, falling apart and talking about disappointing their parents and suicide. I wouldn't see the film again for another 8 years, but I would think about it often. When I finally did see it again, I was one of those teenagers, (somewhere in between Nelson and Hall), and I discovered that I still didn't much care for the film, but for entirely different reasons. Now the characters and their problems seemed so unbelievable to me. Or if not unbelievable, then clichéd, contrived, and underdeveloped. Obviously it's part of Hughes' point that these characters are stereotypes representative so singular problems that can be explored simply in 95 minutes, but a part of me just didn't buy what I saw.

 

I'm still not the film's biggest fan. I like a couple of Hughes' films, but even the ones I enjoy don't hold up to much scrutiny. This one feels a bit too condensed and rushed. For a film that takes place over the course of a whole day, all the biggest revelations and important moments seem to come at the very end, and they all change everything for our characters. When Nelson makes Ringwald cry and utter "I hate you," we're only about 12 minutes away from them kissing in the parking lot. Sheedy's makeover, which makes her instantly appealing to Estevez seems like a tremendous misfire, giving our other pair of would be lovers an unacceptably false happy ending. Do these events really follow each other so closely? So what are we not seeing throughout this day that bonds our characters to each other so well?

 

Here's where things are about to get embarrassing. In high school, I was in an ill advised and undoubtedly illegal stage production of THE BREAKFAST CLUB. Our visionary director must have hunted down the original shooting script to adapt, because I have memories of deleted scenes from the film being in our production. The only one I have any real memory of is that of the janitor predicting the futures of each student. That's actually a pretty good scene that maybe should have stayed in. But to refresh my memory further, I just finished watching the 50 minutes of deleted scenes on Criterion's blu-ray release. And what have I discovered is layered into the film? Not a whole lot. A few more casual exchanges. More dancing and running through hallways. Surprisingly more depth for Vernon and the Janitor. But I just don't see our teenage heroes as deep, rich characters that pop culture has crowned them as. They serve their purpose as types in a movie about types, but aside from a few brief but memorable moments, I just don't feel a lot for any of them.

 

So I guess I don't like this movie so I'm gonna vote No, right? Of course I'm voting this into The Canon! It's THE (friggin) BREAKFAST CLUB! Circumstances and oddly timed screenings may have left me somewhat unaffected by the film, but it's beloved by so many others. There's a real sweet spot age that someone could see this movie at and probably feel like it's speaking just to them. I think I missed that window, but I've certainly heard enough passionate testimonials to see the appeal. This isn't my favorite John Hughes film, but it's easily his most important and career defining. Heck, I would even vote the poster alone into The Canon. I wish I loved this movie as much as Christy does, but if you've been paying attention, you may note that I bought the Criterion blu-ray of a movie I don't love all that much. Why? Because it feels important. It feels like part of film history, even coming in arguably one of the weakest decades for the medium. And I'm really glad I watched it again, and in a few years, I'll probably give it another chance. There's something to this movie. Perhaps someday I'll see what it is.

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I gotta go with a yes on this one. The Criterion Collection version is really amazing and worth getting if anyone is interested. I recently wrote a review and I'd like to share a part of it:

 

The morality of the film is predicated upon that we are more alike than we are different, despite our inherit dissimilarities. Pain no matter where you sit or disposition in life, is inescapable. While I still cede with many that Allison should not have been made “pretty” by Claire and then thereby getting with Andy, it does speak larger that she’s no longer afraid of those around her. Each character evolves and changes by the end, but only that one stings with certain betrayal in upheaval.

 

 

"The Breakfast Club” while not only beloved, is still a powerful film that achieves a goal that is rarely attained, never mind the fact the film largely centers on melodrama and the plight of teenagers stuck in detention. While aspects of the film are assuredly dated, the plight it addresses is not as generations beyond still fall for its charms. Films just seldom become this quotable and this iconic in the nomenclature of culture while still steeped in its own period.

 

Undoubtedly Hughes’ clever writing felt natural along with taking these teenage protagonists seriously with an authenticity rarely felt. That specific magic, the subtle craftsmanship, comes through in a lot of Hughes’ writing of that time, as he would go on create in mass a repertoire of pivotal works that seems impossible to delineate from that particular period for film. Hughes essentially created a distinct category for the way his films operate and feel, much embedded in the fabric of film today. Frankly, we haven’t had a writer-director quite like John Hughes since, and “The Breakfast Club” is proof of that.

 

I always thought Claire was pretty deep of a character actually. She had arguably the most societal pressure by her peer group, was pretty sophisticated (sushi!), and masked her own sadness in her social stature and class. I do hate the ending where her and Bender get together (don't even get me started on Andrew and Allison) and I think that ending is actually kind of phoned in because they needed something uplifting. I think that probably speaks more about audiences and their expectations than what John Hughes actually believes. However, Bender calling Claire a "fat girl's name" is kind of brilliant if not abundantly obnoxious. That's the one thing Claire would be really superficial about and actually really bother her. While I haven't been around teenagers in a while, but they do talk like this as they do say some rather obscene stuff.

 

I think Hughes knew what he wrote, and thus we get a lot of white characters. If Long-Duck Dong is any indication, maybe it's a huge blessing this film is basically wonder bread.

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The comparison to Rebel Without a Cause is an interesting and apt one, as I can't think of any other movies that so adeptly analyze the generational gap from the point of view of the younger generation. While Rebel featured proto-Baby-Boomers as the angsty teens, The Breakfast Club now casts them as terrible parents to the new class of angsty teens. Could Jim from Rebel Without a Cause be Claire's rich dad, Bender's abusive dad, or Andrew's domineering dad? More likely I see him as Brian's dad, not knowing how to encourage his son without pressuring him, and forcing Brian to have a similar freakout as Jim did. While The Breakfast Club is not the masterpiece that Rebel Without a Cause is, I love how much Breakfast Club continues that conversation. (Anyone have recommendations for films from a Millennial point of view about clashes with their Gen X parents?)

 

Boyhood certainly comes to mind for me.

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(Anyone have recommendations for films from a Millennial point of view about clashes with their Gen X parents?)

 

I wonder about this and if we'll actually see it materialize in this way. As a group, Millennials don't seem to have the same fraught relationships with their parents that Boomers and Gen-Xers did.

 

The most recent film I watched that seemed to address this (granted, not the most highbrow fare) was Spider-Man: Homecoming, but this film features teenagers that seem to have good relationships with their parents (or parental figures, in Spidey's case). The cliques are not nearly so rigidly defined as in Breakfast Club (the popular kids compete in the academic decathlon along with the weirdo outcasts), and while there is modern music we also see the teens perfectly comfortable enjoying music from the 70s and 80s. (Though I'll grant that the John Hughes movies also had some of this last bit, like Ferris Bueller singing "Twist and Shout" or Duckie singing "Try a Little Tenderness," throwbacks to the music of Hughes' own youth.)

 

I looked up this list of movies that shaped Millennial teens, and the ones that are specifically about teenagers feature kids that have pretty good relationships with their parents: Clueless, American Pie, Bring It On, Legally Blonde, Mean Girls, Juno, Twilight, Boyhood. Even though Harry Potter features an orphan as the lead, once he learns about his real parents he idolizes them. Some of them just seem to feature teens largely moving through a parent-free world (Superbad, Napoleon Dynamite, Cruel Intentions) or some dystopian future where the teens have to be the heroes (Hunger Games). Maybe the only one with clear parent-child conflict is American Beauty, but honestly that feels like it's written more with Gen-X teenagers in mind.

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Boyhood certainly comes to mind for me.

 

 

I wonder about this and if we'll actually see it materialize in this way. As a group, Millennials don't seem to have the same fraught relationships with their parents that Boomers and Gen-Xers did.

 

The most recent film I watched that seemed to address this (granted, not the most highbrow fare) was Spider-Man: Homecoming, but this film features teenagers that seem to have good relationships with their parents (or parental figures, in Spidey's case). The cliques are not nearly so rigidly defined as in Breakfast Club (the popular kids compete in the academic decathlon along with the weirdo outcasts), and while there is modern music we also see the teens perfectly comfortable enjoying music from the 70s and 80s. (Though I'll grant that the John Hughes movies also had some of this last bit, like Ferris Bueller singing "Twist and Shout" or Duckie singing "Try a Little Tenderness," throwbacks to the music of Hughes' own youth.)

 

I looked up this list of movies that shaped Millennial teens, and the ones that are specifically about teenagers feature kids that have pretty good relationships with their parents: Clueless, American Pie, Bring It On, Legally Blonde, Mean Girls, Juno, Twilight, Boyhood. Even though Harry Potter features an orphan as the lead, once he learns about his real parents he idolizes them. Some of them just seem to feature teens largely moving through a parent-free world (Superbad, Napoleon Dynamite, Cruel Intentions) or some dystopian future where the teens have to be the heroes (Hunger Games). Maybe the only one with clear parent-child conflict is American Beauty, but honestly that feels like it's written more with Gen-X teenagers in mind.

 

Boyhood is a fair point, but the generation gap aspect of it is so tiny. I'm also onboard with Amy's opinion of that film, which is that it's a remarkable achievement, but a rather uncompelling movie.

 

I had the same thought about how most of the teen movies from, say, 1995-2010 seem to either ignore the parents, or have no conflict with them. I thought of American Beauty, but that's firmly from the point of view of the parent (he's the narrator, after all).

 

The internet suggests Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, but I missed that one. Thirteen is a film that I've forgotten too much to comment on. More recently, The Edge of Seventeen has a little bit of parent angst, but most of the angst is spent on other targets and it lacks the communal commiserating about parents that Breakfast Club has. Friend-of-the-show Michael Weber's films also generally ignore the parents. It's been a while since I've seen Perks of Being a Wallflower, but I don't remember much parent action in that either. Last year's Columbus (which is fantastic, I can't emphasize that enough) has some conversations about the generation gap, but they're between Haley Lu Richardson's American millennial character and John Cho's Asian-American Gen-Xer, so they are coming at it from different points of view.

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Boyhood is a fair point, but the generation gap aspect of it is so tiny. I'm also onboard with Amy's opinion of that film, which is that it's a remarkable achievement, but a rather uncompelling movie.

 

And again, in that one the parents are fairly sympathetic figures. It's not really the same kind of generational "conflict" you see in Breakfast Club or Rebel Without a Cause.

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And again, in that one the parents are fairly sympathetic figures. It's not really the same kind of generational "conflict" you see in Breakfast Club or Rebel Without a Cause.

 

I don't know that millenials are really defined as much as previous generations by generational conflicts though, more so either friendship with their parents (Boyhood) or indifferent absence (Superbad).

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I don't know that millenials are really defined as much as previous generations by generational conflicts though, more so either friendship with their parents (Boyhood) or indifferent absence (Superbad).

 

I definitely don't agree with this premise, though I think it's possible that Gen-X filmmakers have a harder time writing and directing from a millennial point of view, even though John Hughes and Nicholas Ray were firmly in the generations being criticized in their films. As more millennial filmmakers continue to tell stories, maybe we'll see more of it. Thinking about millennial filmmakers reminded me that there's a lot of generational gap material in Lady Bird, and it's possible there'll be more in Wildlife and Eighth Grade, all of which are first films by millennial directors.

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One of my complaints about Philadelphia story was how it seemed designed to dump on Hepburn's character to bring her low. I voted against that getting into the Canon, but it was also up against bonafide classic His Girl Friday. I watched Breakfast Club when I was young because I heard it was this famous movie that everyone knew about, but I can't say I would recommend anyone watch it now. There have got to be plenty of other teen movies which could serve the same purpose, even if I've never watched Rebel Without a Cause or Grease to say if Breakfast Club has any merits they lack. So I guess I'll have to remain agnostic on this one.

 

You were asking about Ally Sheedy, and she was recently in Zach Clark's "Little Sister", wherein her daughter is a weird girl (but not quite weird in the way her counter-cultural mother would like). I was planning on commenting here about that even before others wondered about a clash between Gen-X parents & their millennial kids (although Addison Timlin's Colleen is very unrepresentative of her generation, being a nun about to take her vows).

 

I attended Saturday detention.once but I don't remember why or how long it went for.

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I think Amy and the marvelous co-host Ms. Lemire said just about everything that crossed my mind watching it. I considered voting yes on this as it's a good deal better than some of the films that have been discussed and really is culturally relevant, and even though I ultimately went "no" I'll be good when it wins since there are some decent performances and a number of entertaining passages. I think I've decided that The Canon should be about cinematic excellence with the occasional Yea for something truly foundational. While The Breakfast Club is a big deal, still it didn't spawn a whole genre or anything. Maybe because it's a teen take on a moldy stage genre--it's like a group therapy version of Eugene O'Neill's The Ice Man Cometh. Judd Nelson has been given the unplayable role of a device, a character whose purpose is to strip everyone down to who they really are, only John Hughes isn't as original and perverse as O'Neill was. O"Neill turned the device inside out so you laughed in horror at what this creature turned out to really be, while Hughes just works it so that Nelson's phony antagonism actually gives the kids a kind of spiritual colonic. Because what Nelson is made to do is empty his performance seems busy, affected, almost effete. Though I'm not sure any actor could pull this guy off, perhaps a gutsier actor like Sean Penn or a hotter one such as Matt Dillion might have made the dynamics between this character and Molly Ringwald's sexier. I'd find it sexier anyway.

 

The movie doesn't really hang together and I think it's because Hughes didn't know what he was trying to get at. The proof is in the epigraph from Bowie's "Changes": "And these children that you spit on as they try to change their world. They're immune to your consultations. They're quite aware of what they're going through..." This suggests that some sort of counter cultural awakening among the characters is in the offing, but really all the kids in this movie want is acceptance from their peers, popularity. They're not going to opt out of the system. It's a shallow film about breaking out of shallowness.

 

Another thing that mars everything is that the movie begins in a basically realistic mode but Hughes almost immediately begins to heighten and stylize the comic effects. There's an odd electric resonance added to Nelson's screaming "Fuck You!" at the teacher through the library's door, which he magically doesn't hear. Emilio Estevez breaks a window by shouting. No one acts the way they would if they were really high. The various music montages are staged like passages from Scooby Doo, Nelson's falling through the ceiling has no consequences physical or otherwise, etc.,etc.. I wondered if this was meant to keep us from taking a lot of what happens too seriously, but it kept throwing me out of the movie. At the end I was thinking these kids are going to be in a lot of trouble when the teacher discovers all the mess and damage, broken glass, torn up books, screwed card catalogue, food and garbage everywhere; not to mention only one paper got written, and it wasn't even long enough! I feel certain that these dorky teens' triumph is not going to last to the end of the day.

 

BTW, I find the characterization of the teacher played by Paul Gleason to be far more disturbing in its relentless humiliating nastiness than Nelson's harassment of Ringwald. After all lots women have gotten into messes with one or two boys they let go too far. The thing with the teacher isn't based on anything. It's just vile.

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No to the Canon, but just a soft no. Then again sure why not, yes it’s in, well hold on, maybe not, but only just. Yeah, its good enough to revisit emotionally and intellectually. Ok yes. Screw it, I’ll be a good sport. No, no, it’s a soft no.

 

This was how I felt while thinking about including The Breakfast Club in the Canon.

 

I find a lot of TBC wildly problematic by current standards, but that’s not what I hold against it. I was a child when it came out, so I never saw it until much later when I was into my thirties and I began to seek out touchstone movies. I think this is a touchstone movie, as an accidental avatar for the 1980s as a cultural era. Hughes generally wrote/directed movies about American youth when there was still basically one American perspective. There was no BLM or #timesup, nor a Columbine or Sandy Hook. Diversity and inclusion were unheard terms. People still called others gay or retarded and it didn’t offend anyone. I think TBC inadvertently captures the time in which it was made, speaks to societal values at that time and about the America in which our Gen-X friends were raised.

 

If I set aside all the ways my modern sensibilities are offended by those times I am ready to see the breakfast club for what it was without the baggage; a pretty good movie about kids trying to get along. TBC speaks to the alienation in the lives of broad swaths of teenage society, which is well shown and which I enjoy watching for the most part. I readily acknowledge the cultural influence. I think that is the strongest argument for its inclusion into the canon.

 

Mostly, my reservation is that I don’t get invested enough in some of the characters. To make an audience care about each character is one of the hardest things for ensemble films to tackle and here it’s really an admirable job, but I would have preferred a focus on Claire (or really any of the characters) entirely. It’s already almost there. It’s likely that an excellent movie already exists for each of the types in this ensemble. There isn’t really a shortage of movies about teenagers that adroitly handle teenage angst and questions of identity. I find it difficult, as a person without TBC nostalgia to say I love the movie. I just don't think it's a great movie. There, decision made.

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The best thing in this movie are the actors. They are so freakin' good. Everyone knocks a home-run. Even the critique that the women are underdeveloped is valid, but the actors give 110%. On top of that, it is a movie, as was discussed in the podcast, from the vantage of the teenagers, but also the teachers, if briefly. Another point strongly going for this movie. That is such a strong asset, kids hating adults, adults realizing that they've become adults, is really powerful. And the soundtrack! Eat my shorts! Paul Gleason! But at the end of the day, it's a movie for white suburban people. While it might be called a cultural moment: it is a cultural moment for white suburban folks. I think saying that is important and should be kept in mind when discussing the movie.

 

Still, I voted yes.

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PS: It's good to be back. I had to take a hiatus to focus on my comps. I've missed listening to the podcast and reading the smart comments you all post.

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I first saw this film during a particularly bad year in my very early teens, and it felt like a lifeline. I’d never seen growing pains (growing pains that feel more inconsequential the older you get) captured so well and taken so seriously,

What makes it such a perfect and quintessential teen movie is that it only truly speaks to that demographic exclusively. Watching it as an adult, I was depressed by its militantly pro-conformity message, by female characters who too often felt peripheral, and the fact that the big dramatic scene constitutes everyone realising that everything bad in their lives is the fault of their parents. That’s Chekov when you’re twelve, but the adult me just wanted to give them all a clip round the ear and demand that they stop whining. That is why John Hughes’ gifts should never be undervalued. Being addressed by someone who wasn’t a disinterested adult or attempting to sell something meant everything in that wank decade.

I have no plans to watch The Breakfast Club again for as long as I live, but it’s a hard yes.

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