The Breakfast Club – Movie Review

Even the most well versed movie fans have a few classics that they’ve never gotten around to seeing and for me, one of those classics was The Breakfast Club – one of the crown jewels of 80’s cinema and often regarded as one of the best high school movies ever made. I’m sure that there are thousands of people out there that adore this film and see it as a story that either harkens back to their high school days or helped them through a difficult time when they were growing up by giving them something to identify with or showing them that someone understood what they were going through.  For me though, it didn’t quite hit me the way I expected it to.  Let’s get into it.

At this point, the plot of The Breakfast Club should be fairly well known – 5 high school kids have to sit through all day detention on a Saturday and end up getting to know each other along the way.  The interesting thing about this film is that it plays heavily on the classic stereotypes of high school kids – the brain, the athlete, the basket case (the weirdo), the princess, and the criminal with each of the five main characters personifying one of those tropes.  Throughout the day, they slowly begin to interact and reveal their own personal back stories and what they did to end up in detention in the first place.  Between each character and each character’s backstory, I can absolutely see how this film could play an important role in a teen’s life growing up.  However…..  (and this feels awkward to say) I didn’t find myself relating to any of the characters or their problems or, honestly, really liking any of the characters.

If I look back on my time in high school and try to relate the way I was to the characters in this movie, I would probably be a cross between a Brian and an Allison – a brainy type but quiet, shy, and kinda weird.  I had the smarts to be a brain but the interpersonal skills of a rock so I just sat in the back, did my work, and then read a book (Star Wars or Stephen King, preferably). I think part of my dislike of this movie stems from what season of life I’m in right now – I’m in my early thirties, college educated, married, father of one, with a desk job.  I know Bowling For Soup says “High School Never Ends” but when you’re a decade and a half removed from walking the hallowed halls of your alma mater, the problems of those days seems so small and far away and easy compared to the problems of where you are today.

I’ve talked a lot about how the story and message of this film hit me, and those are all worthwhile things to talk about, movies are supposed to have some sort of emotional weight right(?), but let’s talk about the merits of this film and how it was constructed a bit.  The pacing and flow felt a bit off to me with some rather jarring tone shifts.  I felt like we would be in a “happy fun place” for a few minutes singing and dancing and cracking jokes and then swing wildly into more moody, depressing tones where the character fought and bared their hearts to each other. It’s almost like the movie had the emotional stability of a teenager and maybe that was exactly what John Hughes was going for and I just came at it sideways.

As far as the acting in The Breakfast Club goes, everyone does a fine job in their roles.  This movie was, again, hard for me to relate to and since I didn’t relate to any of the story elements or the characters, it’s also hard for any of the performances to stand out for me.  If I had to pick out one actor that was more noticeable than the rest it would be Judd Nelson, if for no other reason that I disliked his character the most.  Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall also turn in good performances but I honestly liked her more in Pretty in Pink and him more in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

In the end, while I understand the message in this movie, it didn’t resonate with me. Maybe that’s because I didn’t grow up with it, maybe that’s because I’m in my thirties watching a high school film, or maybe The Breakfast Club is very much a product of it’s time and 2017 is just too far removed from 1985 to fully appreciate what sort of impact it had on people at that time. I’m glad I watched it (it’s nice to cross this one off the list) but it will be a long time before I watch it again, if ever. Also, I know reading a less than enthusiastic review of a favorite movie can be a bit of a downer, but please understand, if I haven’t said it before, don’t let my opinion of this movie, or any, change yours. Movies are art and all art is subjective. Love the movie you love and hate the movies you hate.

Final Rating: B-

Final Thought: It’s a weird thing watching a beloved classic for the first time and not liking it.

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