Yelling one minute, giggling the next, while cool music plays throughout. Welcome to The Breakfast Club, John Hughes’ 1985 comedy-drama about five teenagers confined to a Saturday detention in the Shermer High School library in Shermer, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
Each one of the five kids represents a different kind of high school culture. Although wrestler Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), teen beauty Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), and brainy Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) come from wealthy families, they each represent a separate segment of high school society. Likewise, rebellious John Bender (Judd Nelson) and spooky Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) come from the wrong side of the tracks, but one is brash and outgoing while the other is quiet and shy.
The teacher who rides herd on the five of them is Richard “Dick” Vernon (Paul Gleason), an assistant principal who is rough and disillusioned with his profession. The only other adult character of any consequence is the philosophical janitor, Carl Reed (John Kapelos) who enlightens both Dick and the kids.
John creates the drama as he pushes against the rich kids and makes fun of the dork, both strutting his anger at coming from a poor, ignorant family and concealing his own fear for his future. He teases Claire about being a virgin, Andrew about being a dumb jock, and Brian about not fitting in. As the day goes on, they gradually become friends, laughing, dancing, shouting, and opening up about their deepest truths and fears.
There isn’t much of a plot here, but that’s not important. Most of the movie dedicates itself to the theme that in spite of outside differences, we’re all pretty much the same, a pretty good message in any time or place. The generous ensemble script allows room for each character to bloom.
Most of the acting is excellent, although the emotional outbursts now seem a little over the top, as are the stock characters. The movie is really excellent except when it tries to go deep. Of the five teens, Ally Sheedy really stands out as the best and that is partly because her character doesn’t fit into a mold and partly because she infuses it with a great deal of originality.
The best part of the film is the comedy and when it’s good, it’s really laugh out loud good and it carries the movie beyond the simple teen angst that colors the drama. A fun movie. At an hour and a half, the timing is perfect and it is almost impossible to stop watching once you start, always a sign that a movie is doing its job.