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".....and these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultation. They’re quite aware what they’re going through.”- David Bowie.

The Universal Studios logo appears and the first notes of Simple Minds ‘Don’t Your Forget About Me’ begin, then the above quote from Bowie appears in yellow text, the black background on which it appears then shatters to reveal the entrance of Shermer High School, Saturday, March 24, 1984, Shermer, Illinois 60062.

Breakfast Club, The

Feature


Thus begins the teen ‘80s masterpiece known as The Breakfast Club. Yes, I’m calling this 1985 film a masterpiece and while I’m sure many people would scoff at this statement, I’m standing by it. The teen film fad of the eighties was pioneered by John Hughes and although his two other major contributions to the genre, Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are just as wonderful as The Breakfast Club, they both contain elements that are similar to most of the other teen film fare on offer in the decade and they are also both comedies. While The Breakfast Club  does contain some humorous moments, at its heart it’s a drama and is in a class of its own because of its simplistic setting and strong emphasis on character. For many people (this reviewer included), this film is the film of the eighties. Sure, there were films that made more money, films that received much more acclaim, and films with superior production values and bigger stars, but it’s very difficult to talk about the films of the 1980s and not, at some point, reference The Breakfast Club.

Five Chicago high school students arrive at Shermer High School on a Saturday morning to serve a full day of detention in the school library. There is the princess Claire (Molly Ringwald), athlete Andrew (Emilio Estevez), a criminal named Bender (Judd Nelson), a Brain called Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) and a basket case, Allison (Ally Sheedy). These five teenagers are all stereotypes to each other and the viewer as the films begins, but as the saying goes, looks can be deceiving. As each member of the ‘breakfast club’ detention takes their place at one of the six tables in the library, the Dean of Students, Mr.Vernon, strolls in to inform them that they each required to spend the next eight hours writing an essay discussing “who you think you are”. As the detention begins there is an uncomfortable silence until Bender garners reactions from Claire and Andrew by threatening to urinate on the floor. Immediately the stereotypical perceptions of each character are evident. Claire tries to ignore Bender, Andrew threatens violence and Brian tries to make peace, while Allison is the mute enigma in the corner.
 
Breakfast Club, The
It’s this eclectic dynamic of characters that makes the film possible. It’s conceivable that if Bender had been absent from The Breakfast Club then the rest of the group would have simply suffered in silence through the entire day. Bender’s continual questions are what drive the direction and flow of the film. School clubs, lunches, sex and parents are all prime topics of obnoxious inquests for Bender, with his prime target of focus being the pristine Claire. But in his attempts to upset her he ends up wanting her, a feeling he hides by treating her with utter hatred and distain. Similarly, when he performs his version of life at Brian’s house, he ends up exposing his own troubled home life to the group. This significant moment sends Bender into a destructive range when he realises what he has just revealed and changes the way the rest of the teens view him. It’s through this constant questioning and confessing that these five teenagers end up bonding over the expectations of their parents and their peers.  While they each walked into the school individually, they walk out at the end of the day as a group. Andrew is with Allison, Claire with Bender, and poor Brian is on his lonesome.  However, he does get to end the film with his essay written on behalf of the group to Vernon.

“Dear Mr Vernon
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong—and what we did was wrong—but we think you’re crazy to make us write and 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 brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7 o’ clock this morning. We were brainwashed.”

Breakfast Club, The
John Hughes wrote the The Breakfast Club over two days, July 4th and 5th of 1982 and originally it was intended to be his first high school focused film, followed by Sixteen Candles. However, predictably, Universal Pictures viewed The Breakfast Club as a problematic film to market, so the decision was made to reverse the order of production and make Sixteen Candles first, closely followed by Hughes self proclaimed “baby.”  Therefore, The Breakfast Club became the middle film in the Hughes high school trilogy, sandwiched between Sixteen Candles and Weird Science, which were all put into production in less than sixteen months.

But The Breakfast Club is the special one in the trilogy for a number of reasons. Unlike the other two films, it was filmed on one soundstage which was actually an abandoned school, Marine North High School in Chicago. The whole school was taken over by the production, with offices, a screening room and editing suites all located within the school walls. The massive school gymnasium housed the full equipped library, which was constructed as the main soundstage complete with Vernon's adjoining office. The small cast of seven actors ate meals in the school cafeteria with the crew and played basketball in the smaller, secondary gym during breaks. The film was also shot virtually in sequence with the actors free to improvise, which led to the infamous Judd Nelson 'A blond walks into a bar' joke with no punch line as well as personal insults being hurled during the confession scene.

Of course, like any great movie making story, the film faced obstacle after obstacle during and after production. The original cut of the film ran two hours and forty five minutes and Hughes was happy with it in its entirety and couldn’t imagine it being cut or altered. But with a studio view that no teenager would sit through an almost three hour film of five kids just talking, the film was cut extensively. It’s worth noting that Hughes apparently has the only copy of the uncut film, which is just another reason in a long list of why this film should be released as a special edition.

Breakfast Club, The
In all his teen tale films, Hughes reveals a profound talent for writing authentic teen dialogue and it’s in this film that it’s on stellar display, because in the simplest terms The Breakfast Club is about five students in a library talking all day. Sure, they dance at one point and smoke weed at another, but the remainder of the film is focused on what these five teenagers say to each other and what they reveal about themselves to each other. The highlight sequence of the film is without doubt the infamous sit down when they reveal, amongst other things, what each of them did to get detention and whether, now that they have got to known each other, they are friends. It’s a sequence that apparently moved film critic Roger Ebert to tears when he visited the set and I can easily say that after watching this film more times than any person should legally be allowed to watch any film, the confession session always packs a powerful emotional punch. The brilliance of the execution of The Breakfast Club is that Hughes and the five actors make the characters complex enough to make us care about them, while at the same time retaining their stereotypical attributes to make them relatable. They each narrate their unsurprising indiscretions that have landed them in detention, but coupled with their actions towards each other during the day; their stories are made both poignant and understandable. At the end of the day, they all understand each other’s worlds better than they did when the day began and the audience is left with the lingering question of what happened on Monday?
 
Video
Unlike the previous releases of the film, the 1.85:1 widescreen presentation is finally anamorphic and it makes all the difference. The picture is clear, crisp and colours are superb, especially considering the print is twenty years old. Grain is occasionally visible and edge enhancement is apparent once. Colour is generally impressive, only occasionally appearing dull and muted. It would be nice to see a restored print of this film and hopefully if a special edition is ever released, that could be on offer, but otherwise this is a pretty decent, unproblematic transfer.

Breakfast Club, The
Audio
On offer in the audio department are both a DTS 5.1 package and a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which both offer clear and audible dialogue, while also showcasing the various songs in the film well. The film begins with one of the best pop songs of eighties, ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’, and it’s immediately clear that the soundtrack has been greatly improved upon from previous releases. The sync and clarity of dialogue is of the greatest importance in this film and there are no problems to report, every word is always clearly discernible. The music is also important and both the score and the select songs used are bold and strong.

Extras
Now, I would have been absolutely livid if this had been a bare bones release without anything at all, so the inclusion of the original theatrical trailer is appreciated. But come on, The Breakfast Club is one of three John Hughes that are in desperate need of the special edition treatment, the other two being Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Here’s hoping that 2006 will be the year for these releases, with Ferris just released in a special edition, there are a full eleven months for the other two Hughes classics to get the treatment on DVD they deserve.

Breakfast Club, The
Overall
The Breakfast Club is one of my favourite films. I have seen it countless times and it’s a film that once I start watching I can’t stop it for any reason, even though I know what’s going to happen next and know what each character is going to say. This film always remains addictively watchable. When I slip this disc into my player and the Simple Minds theme begins, I get excited, just like I did when I first saw the film, it’s that kind of film for me and unfortunately there are only a handful of films that offer the same experience. Please take this into consideration when reading this review; while I tried to objective in regards to the transfers, I am completely biased when it comes to the film. As I said, in my mind, which is very '80s movie warped, this film is a masterpiece.


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