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Not What They Seem: A Review of “The Breakfast Club”

Words by Blythe Alspaugh

A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal all walk into Saturday detention. Eight hours together manages to change the perception each person has of the other.

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Photo Courtesy of IMDB.

“The Breakfast Club” is a John Hughes film released in 1985 that centers around a group of five high school students from different cliques serving out an all-day detention. Everyone is there for a different reason, but they are all given an assignment by their principal (Paul Gleason) to write an essay on who they think they are. While Principal Vernon checks on them periodically, they are mostly left alone throughout the detention.

It doesn’t take long for the group to abandon Vernon’s rule about not talking to one another. At the start, the room is divided—Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) and Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez) represent the popular crowd as the princess and the athlete, while John Bender (Judd Nelson) and Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) represent the outcasts as the criminal and the basket case, and Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) is the brain.

Tensions are evident and natural as part of the social hierarchy of high school—John purposely pokes at Claire and Andrew’s buttons, Andrew gets heated and defends himself and Claire with insults and threats and Brian tries to keep the peace between everyone, but gets shut down. As the day goes on, each person’s façade is peeled away layer by layer, revealing a new piece that adds dimension to their stereotype.

Claire is popular but can’t stand her friends and she is an object her fighting parents use to get back at each other. Andrew is a jock under so much pressure from his father to be a winner that he bullies a kid in order for his father to think he’s cool. John’s tough exterior comes from a battered home life and low expectations from everyone around him. Allison is so invisible in her home life that she’s ready to run away and disappear at any moment. Brian’s academic career is his life and one failing grade has him ready to end it all.

It’s perhaps the storyline’s simplicity that makes “The Breakfast Club” such a genuinely good film. It’s the reason the movie has become such a cult classic. Like many of Hughes’ films, it captures constant and realistic issues that every teenager and young adult deals with. In the beginning, most people can distinctly identify with one character because of the stereotypical constructs, but by the end each character has become more relatable than when the film started out.

This film, while being one I’ve enjoyed since high school, only recently became one of my favorites. I can’t exactly place my finger on why that is—is it the character development, the relatability? Is it because Hughes wanted to create a contemporary piece centered around the problems people have in communicating with each other? Maybe it’s a combination of the three. All I know is that, as repetitive as some cult classics can be, I can almost always watch “The Breakfast Club.” As such, I’m giving it five out of five stars.

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