Retro review: The Breakfast Club

When Emerald Street offered the chance to go to a free screening of The Breakfast Club at Hulme’s Zion Arts Centre, I jumped at it, and not just because of the free wine. The Breakfast Club, like Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles and even Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, is one of those 80s classics that absolutely everyone has seen but that I, in fact, have not seen. Why? Well, mostly because I’m an 80s classic myself. In 1985, when this film came out, I was mostly interested in having warm milk delivered to my face.

All I knew about The Breakfast Club was: it’s about a Saturday detention; there’s a scene where they all get stoned; the soundtrack is Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me, and right at the end one of the characters punches the air while walking across a football field. Like the film’s archetypal geek Brian Johnson, I was eager to learn more.

Lesson 1: it’s hard to go back to the 80s. This is in many ways a tricky film to watch almost 30 years later. Not only is it difficult to buy Molly Ringwald as a prom queen and Emilio Estevez as anything other than a teeny tiny President of the United States (seriously – watch his face when Allison Reynolds tells him her parents ignore her. It’s like someone just told Jed Bartlet there’s been a coup in Haiti), but this, like Grease,  is one of the films that made high-school films. The stereotypes that make up this cast – the jock, the brain, the criminal, the princess and the kook, not to mention the vicious and inadequate principal – have informed the basic demographics of every fictional American high school from Stargirl to Mean Girls. The problem is, since the Kook evolved into Manic Pixie Dream Girl and we all watched the Princess get hit by a bus, the Breakfast Club characters can feel as though they’ve aged about as well as, well, Molly Ringwald’s career.

Lesson 2: it sucks to be a woman in this film. The reasons for this constitute spoilers, so if you are one of the other seven people in the world who haven’t seen The Breakfast Club and you think you might want to, don’t click here. Otherwise, go right ahead.

Lesson 3: it is a beautiful thing of 80s wonder. The dialogue is dramatic. The soundtrack is both rocky and synth-poppy. (Don’t You Forget About Me itself stayed in the UK singles chart for two years. I’m listening to it right now. RAIN KEEPS FALLING, RAIN KEEPS FALLING). The dancing is Clonetastic. The hair is beautiful and plentiful. The bad guy is Dwayne T. Robinson from Die Hard. The opening credits are a quote from David Bowie. This film couldn’t be any more 80s if it featured Thatcher playing with a Rubik’s Cube.

And it’s all the better for that. Imagine if they remade The Breakfast Club today. Jennifer Lawrence playing the Kook and Michael Cera playing Brian the Brain would be all well and good…but you know full well Robert Pattinson would play John Bender. Maybe the 80s weren’t so bad.

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