Today is the 30th ‘birthday’ of The Breakfast Club. I know this because my son Luke brought it to my attention. He has seen the movie about a dozen times. I asked Luke if he would write up some thoughts about The Breakfast Club to celebrate his favorite movie. He emailed me 20 minutes later with this:
“Saturday…March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois. 60062. Dear Mr. Vernon…we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong, what we did was wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write this essay telling you who we think we are, what do you care? You see us as you want to see us… in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct?”
Thirty years later, this monologue from the beginning of The Breakfast Club, written and directed by John Hughes, still holds a chilling amount of relevance over current conditions in most public schools. Kids are written off by what people think of them and what they’re good at, and no allowance is given for what they WANT to do.
The Breakfast Club is the story of five kids, meeting at seven in the morning in detention. Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), the awkward and submissive nerd, Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), the single-minded jock, Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), an impulsive liar who is allergic to social acceptance, Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), the prom queen and for all intents and purposes, the most popular girl in school, and finally John Bender (Judd Nelson), a ‘criminal’ who oozes sarcasm and vibes of nonchalance.
Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), the principal, instructs the unlikely group on what they are to do.
“ …and you may not talk. You will not move from these seats. And you… may not sleep. Alright people, we’re going to try something different today. I want you to write an essay, of no less than a thousand words, describing to me who you think you are.”
…The group’s answer to which is iterated in the intro of the film. Which leaves the rest of the space in the movie dedicated to HOW the crew developed as people to come to that conclusion.
From a storytelling standpoint, the setting for this film is perfect. The entirety of the movie takes place in a school, and beyond that, in one room. In the beginning, all the characters are reserved and functionally opposite from each other. The plot progression of this movie is the movement forward of these five people; this movie is about human interaction and it makes no effort to mask it.
I adore The Breakfast Club. Its entertainment value is high, and if you look behind the veil of comedy John Hughes applies to achieve said entertainment value, it addresses very real issues. There are ‘Breakfast Clubs’ like this all over the world; kids that are limited by their parents, financial situation, race, or otherwise, finding solace in each others’ hardships. The individual characters are so well crafted, you feel the pain and struggle they go through to find balance in their lives, even if you can’t directly relate to them. It’s a masterpiece of heart-tugging realism, humor, and overall a film that perfectly encapsulates the picture of its era.
Did You Know?
• Over the course of the movie, the characters remove various articles of their clothing, symbolic of them opening up as people.
• Brian Johnson’s license plate reads ‘EMC2’, keeping in line with his nerd persona, and Andrew Clark’s reads ‘OHIOST’, which is fitting for a jock.
• Towards the beginning of the movie, the janitor Carl is portrayed in the picture for ‘Man of the Year 1969’.
• Both the scene where the group gets high, and the famous confession scene, are largely improvised.
• Over 200,000 feet of film was shot as a result of John Hughes’ embrace of improvisation.
The original trailer for the movie:
A nice fan-made mini-documentary about The Breakfast Club featuring numerous audio and video interview clips with John Hughes as well as video with Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and Ally Sheedy.
A “Good Morning America” segment with Hall, Nelson, Ringwald, and Sheedy in 2010, reflecting on their experiences making the movie:
A compilation called The Best of John Bender:
When I think about this movie, I am struck by the loss of John Hughes. Perhaps even more than that, the loss of John Hughes movies. The Breakfast Club reminds us how those early Hughes’ films did such an incredible job exploring the world of adolescence. Where are the movies today featuring teenagers in their social element? Thankfully, screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have written some fine ones including the adaptations The Spectacular Now (novel by Tim Tharp) and The Fault in Our Stars (novel by John Green), but it sure seems to me there is room for much more in the way of stories focusing on the experience of contemporary adolescents.
Are there any budding John Hughes out there? Because we could use a voice like that in times like these.
How about you? What are your thoughts or memories of The Breakfast Club?
GITS development assistant Wendy Cohen here. For those of you based in L.A., I highlyrecommend taking advantage of KCET’s Spring Cinema Series starting February 25th at the Television Academy Theater in North Hollywood. In the past, Scott and I have posted Q&As from several screenings, including some of this year’s Oscar contenders. Each screening is followed by a discussion with cast/crew involved in the film and Deadline Hollywood film critic Pete Hammond. It’s an excellent opportunity to see some great movies, learn about filmmakers and their process, and ask questions to some of the top and most prolific creative people in our field.
As we have done for their fall series, roughly each week we will post a transcript or excerpts from the past week’s Q&A. If you’re a fan of independent cinema, I strongly recommend reading these and visiting the KCET website to see what screenings in the series may interest you.
The series’ first film, “The Face of Love,” stars Annette Bening as a grieving widow who happens upon a man (Ed Harris) who looks almost exactly like her deceased husband. The two then strike up a relationship and a flood of old feelings come rushing back to her again. Arie Posin directs this emotionally thorny drama about how we cope with loss, live in the moment and ultimately move forward.
Posin, also a co-writer of the movie, will be present after the screening for an exclusive conversation with Pete Hammond.
“The Face of Love” Screening Info:
Date/Time: Tuesday, February 25, 2013 at 7:00 PM
Guest: Director/Co-writer Arie Posin
Location: Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Theater, 5220 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601
People sometimes ask me why I host this blog. The other day I posted this and in comments dashed off a rather rambling slice of personal history that gets at some of my thoughts and feelings, so I thought I’d share it here for wider reading:
I always loved movies. Growing up a military brat, we moved around a lot. Movies became one source of constancy in my life. Plus when you live in a desolate place like Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota for four long years, just about the only thing to do in some weather conditions is go to the movie theater (as I remember, it cost a quarter for a ticket).
I took every cinema course I could in college and joined several film groups which expanded my knowledge of film to European and Japanese movies (the serious ones, I had seen all of the Godzilla type movies as a kid). This had nothing to do with any perceived career choice, just following my passion for films.
I really knew very little about the actual production of movies, even screenwriting, I just lived in those story worlds. They became an essential part of how I think, how I speak. To this day, I probably reference a line or scene from this movie or that in conversations a half-dozen times per day. Films are one of my primary experiential touchstones.
I do remember reading William Goldman’s, “Adventures in the Screen Trade” when it came out. Not sure what drew me to it. Think I just stumbled on it. That must have made an impression on me re screenwriting.
But beyond that, when I blurted out, “I can do that,” I really had no legitimate basis upon which to say that with any confidence… other than the fact I loved movies, and I had always been a writer of some sort (for the last decade songwriting).
Of course, looking back, I can say it was Destiny at work. For nine years, I had been putting myself and my creativity out there to the Universe, searching for something to do, somewhere to land. Leaving a clear pathway to an academic career for the uncertain realm of creative pursuits is not a logical move… rather an act of faith.
My life has taken many, many twists and turns since that fateful day in 1987. It boggles my mind to reflect on how I have wound up doing what I’m doing now. And I know enough to understand there are likely more shifts to come.
At the end of the day, if there’s anything I’ve discovered about my existence, it’s that Joseph Campbell is right: Follow your bliss. That is our calling. To determine what it is that excites us in an existential way and pursue that. And for me, it’s movies.
I am excited whenever I meet people who pursue their creative path. I am also saddened when I hear stories about people who live with the regret that they KNEW what they loved, yet never pursued it.
In a big way, that’s why I teach and host this blog. I want to do whatever I can, admittedly in my own small way, to fan the flames of creative aspiration of others.
The world desperately needs great stories and great writers. There are so many forces at work heaping destruction upon our Earth. Stories and storytellers counteract some of that by feeding our individual and collective souls.
Which brings me back to my first point: I absolutely love movies. Some of the most transformative moments in my life have come sitting in a darkened theater sharing a story on screen with a crowd of strangers. It’s like a kind of sacred experience… and I mean that quite literally.
Obviously there is no guarantee for anyone in the creative arts. As I wrote in a blog post: Movies don’t owe anybody a living. But there are all types of ways to judge success. Even if a writer never makes one thin dime from their creative efforts, if the experience of writing brings them joy and enlivens them, isn’t that a success, at least in an existential way?
Follow your bliss. It really all comes down to that. To all who are brave enough and persistent enough to follow theirs, especially if you love movies as much as I do, I extend my virtual embrace… and offer to you as a tiny daily gift, this humble blog.
Who else has been moved by the power of movies? Why do you love movies? I welcome any of you to share your stories. See you in comments!