WEIRDLAND: The Breakfast Club: Criterion Special Edition

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The Breakfast Club: Criterion Special Edition

Molly Ringwald: When my daughter proposed watching “The Breakfast Club” together, I hesitated, not knowing how she would react: if she would understand the film or if she would even like it. I worried that she would find aspects of it troubling. My daughter did audibly gasp when she thought I had showed my underwear. At one point in the film, the bad-boy character, John Bender, ducks under the table where my character, Claire, is sitting, to hide from a teacher. While there, he takes the opportunity to peek under Claire’s skirt. I was quick to point out to my daughter that the person in the underwear wasn’t really me, though that clarification seemed inconsequential for her: Bender sexually harasses Claire throughout the film. Before John Hughes, no one in Hollywood was writing about the minutiae of high school, and certainly not from a female point of view. That two of Hughes’s films had female protagonists in the lead roles and examined these young women’s feelings, while also managing to have instant cred that translated into success at the box office, was an anomaly that has never really been replicated. (The few blockbuster films starring young women in recent years have mostly been set in dystopian futures.) John Hughes believed in me, and in my gifts as an actress, more than anyone else I’ve known. He could also respond to perceived rejection in much the same way the character of Bender did in “The Breakfast Club.”

This was John Hughes’s great gift in his early films as a screenwriter and director: he understood the whirling, emotionally inconsistent state of being an American teenager better than anyone else work­ing in the 1980s. The Breakfast Club, released in 1985, is the middle film of the “teen trilogy” for which he is most celebrated, bracketed by his first outing as a director, the slapsticky Sixteen Candles (1984), and the more exuberant Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The trilogy becomes a sextet if you also count Weird Science (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986) and Some Kind of Wonderful (1987). Hughes had been a happily married man since the tender age of twenty, making The Breakfast Club all the more remarkable. How did a baby boomer, born in 1950, become the teen laureate not only of the eighties but also­—as his films would prove surprisingly durable—of the decades that followed? In its spareness, The Breakfast Club could almost be a black-box theater production: five kids of disparate backgrounds are compelled to spend nine hours together in one room, gaining insights into themselves and each other along the way. Bender is all kinetic energy and he’s also the first to break down and reveal his vulnerability. All of the characters in due time reveal similar holes in their souls, though not in a straight and steady line toward hug-it-out reconciliation. There is tension nearly to the very end. The character of Bender was the macho type who did not give a crap. It was his was of coping with the world. He was actually a nice guy, that is why he got the girl. Hughes was the rare adult who retained access to this volatility, and the even rarer filmmaker who could turn it into art. Seems John Hughes was right all along: Those wicked cliques were made to be broken. Source:

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