RogerBW's Blog

The Breakfast Club 09 December 2021

1985 drama, dir. John Hughes, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald: IMDb / allmovie. Five high school kids are in weekend detention. Much to their surprise, this will actually have a positive effect on them.

All right, so there were a lot of teen-angst films during the eighties – many of them, indeed, directed by John Hughes. I haven't seen most of them; I may have been 16 when this film came out, but I was 16 in England, and the school environment presented here was as alien to me as the Moon. (Actually I probably knew more about the Moon.)

But as a film seen for the first time now… I rather enjoyed it. Yes, there's blatant sexual abuse by the bully which nobody seems to regard as in any way a problem; given where it sits in the course of the progress from "we are all representatives of our cliques and have nothing to say to each other" to "we are all more or less united against the teacher" it would seem that Hughes didn't take it very seriously either.

That progress is at times very obvious, with the script machinery practically visible; at other times there seems no particular reason for a scene to be here rather than there.

This is a step sideways from earlier teenage comedy like Animal House and Porky's (and indeed Diner, which feels relevant even if those guys aren't technically teenagers): rather than the slavish repetition of "childhood is the best days of your lives", there's a little expansion into actual character, with people allowed to have positive and negative aspects rather than merely being "the X one".

(Except in the case of the Vice Principal, played by Paul Gleason, who feels as though he gets about half a plot thread; his actions are whatever the plot needs to get the kids to do the next thing, rather than being in any way part of a plan for how he was going to spend his day.)

I did find myself unconvinced by the redemptive experience: Bender the bully has changed his behaviour least of all of them, and he gets to kiss the popular girl, which I'd call positive reinforcement. Meanwhile, as someone who grew up lusting after goth chicks, I am particularly sensitive to the idea of Allison being turned conventionally attractive: isn't the entire cosmetic and fashion industry enough to send the message "the only important thing is catching a man, and you'll only do that if you look just like everyone else only better", without films doing it too?

But I enjoyed it, and it takes a lot to make me enjoy a film about teenagers.

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

Tags: film reviews

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