The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club Blu-ray cover

Saturday March 24th, 1984, a day unremarkable in history but largely missed by five students condemned to spend their time in detention in the library of Shermer High School, Illinois, supposedly supervised by Vice Principal Richard Sherman but largely left to their own devices once he has harangued them to the degree that he feels they have been intimidated into quiet obedience: Brian Johnson, Andrew Clark, Allison Reynolds, Claire Standish and John Bender, their backgrounds and offences different but their punishment the same.

The five initially pitched between indifference and antagonism towards each other, largely initiated by the hostility of Bender, more concerned with their own thoughts on the immediate impact of detention and their futures than each other, once left alone supposedly to each compose a personal essay on “who you think you are,” instead those threats bring them together in complicity, exploring who they are beyond the stereotypes they are seen as or have chosen to present themselves as, the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal.

The Breakfast Club; Claire Standish, Andrew Clark and John Bender (Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez and Judd Nelson) fail to observe silence in the library.

The “teenage film” having established itself as a genre in the nineteen-fifties, it was in eighties that it enjoyed a Hollywood resurgence, adapted for a new era and broadly led by the “Brat Pack” brought together by Francis Ford Coppola for The Outsiders in 1983 and often associated with the writer and director John Hughes, sometimes seen as the chronicler of teen life in that decade through various lenses, among them Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Released in early 1985, The Breakfast Club remains a classic of its time, a chamber piece at times akin to a prison movie as the inmates shed their masks of bravado and confess their fears and weaknesses, challenging each other and themselves, angry with their parents who abuse, ignore or have unreasonable expectations of them and an education system which requires them to conform for the sake of a greater good which serves the school rather than the students, learning to trust each other and themselves rather than stale lessons instructed by rote.

The Breakfast Club; the unrepentant outsiders dancing to their own tune, John Bender and Allison Reynolds (Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy).

With only Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall actually teenagers when the film was shot, Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy being in their early twenties and Judd Nelson raising the question of just how many years Bender has been held back, that is less important than the acknowledgement that each of them are absolutely right for their parts as shaped by Hughes’ coaching of their performances and a script which only falters in the final moments, the somewhat conventional pairing up of the characters a disservice to what has gone before.

Perhaps an unavoidable concession to Universal who were wary of allowing the relatively inexperienced Hughes full autonomy over a budget of a million dollars, with The Breakfast Club having served domestic box office takings around fifty times that outlay their apprehension now seems unfounded, that day in detention almost four decades gone now recalled by Criterion who revisit it with a new edition featuring new and archive features, among them a commentary, interviews, deleted scenes and the original character outlines as read by Nelson.

The Breakfast Club is available on Blu-ray from Criterion now

The Breakfast Club; making confessions out class, Claire, Brian, Andy, Allison and John (Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson).



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