Breakfast Clubbing

I watched The Breakfast Club a few weeks back in memory of John Hughes passing. I’ve never liked it much; even when I was 14, it felt particularly crafted to appeal to me, as a misanthropic angsty teen loner. I was somewhere between the burnout and the nerd when I saw it; I was just losing all my preppy friends because I dressed in a ratty Army jacket gifted to me by the guys at the VFW, and was beginning to get that ubiquitous feeling that “nobody’s like me” that almost everyone gets at that age.
So Breakfast Club should have appealed to me, as it tries to be a 6 person play set in a school library during Saturday detention, with 5 stereotypes and Lieutenant Dickwad from Die Hard popping in now and then to break things up. He gave teens more credit than the average Hollywood director, and approached taboo subjects such as class differences. The best part of The Breakfast Club to me was the recognition that on Monday, they’d go back to their cliques and treat each other like garbage; in high school, I was a fence sitter. I was part brain trust, part geek and part burnout, and I was also on the track team for a while. Like Will Rogers said about the middle of the road, it was the surest place to get run over.
Molly Ringwald’s eulogy in the NY Times is very telling; when she and Anthony Michael Hall grew up and left Neverland, John essentially threw a petulant kid fit and called them “flat leavers.” I think part of what made John Hughes’s best films work- and his most cloying ones fail- was that he glamorized that coming of age period and embraced its materialism. Part of what always bothered me was how rich everyone was in his movies. Rolls Royces, classic Ferraris, mansions in the tony sections of Chicago. That’s perhaps why originally, I unfairly sneered at the ending of Planes, Trains and Automobiles when Del turns out to be homeless. He shouldn’t have used that word. What was sad about Del was that he had no family on Thanksgiving; home or not. But it doesn’t sour what is one of Hughes’ best movies- as well as Martin and Candy’s. Hughes also tried to atone for his plutophilia with Pretty in Pink, but the studio made and Some Kind of Wonderful; two stories about rich meets poor. Neither really work well and seem forced. According to the IMDb, the studio forced the ending of Pink on him, and he made Wonderful to make up for it, but sadly it just leaves us two mediocre movies.
As a director he had a pretty good run; I haven’t seen Curly Sue or She’s Having a Baby and probably never will, but considering 16 Candles, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club and Uncle Buck make me sit and watch them, I shouldn’t slam Mr. Hughes. He’s just another victim with stars in his eyes, and thankfully he quit when he did. I hope he got to spend the time he wanted with his children before his sudden death. Otherwise it was all for nought. So, what’s the Club like almost 25 years later? It feels very dated, while The River’s Edge and Out of the Blue almost feel like they could have been made today. How I wish I’d seen them back then.

One thought on “Breakfast Clubbing

  1. On the flip side, I was a huge fan of Breakfast Club and not because I related to any of the characters. I too was middle of the road. I wasn't rich, and I'm pretty sure I only had detention once for something really lame. Why Breakfast Club and many other Hughes movies appealed to me was that the characters were very real and the actors captured what Hughes wanted perfectly. I did however relate to Gary and Wyatt in Weird Science in a big way. These two films were basically the first of their kind and they didn't for one minute ever feel like it was a blatant rip off of anything else. There were so many films after these great 80s films that wound up completely ripping off Hughes films. I can probably go on forever about his movies because these were "my movies" growing up.

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