(Midnight Movie) The Breakfast Club Review
by Bret Dorman
If you asked me to define what a Midnight Movie is, I would say, just as a brief introductory answer, the movie usually has one or some of the following attributes:
– Rated R
– High amount of (Graphic) Violence
– Cult Classic
– Obscure Foreign Film
– Some movie you’ve never heard of before and when you look up the synopsis online and become even more confused/unsure you want to see it but think “Hey… when has The Music Box ever let me down?…”
So when you see that The Breakfast Club is this weeks featured Midnight Movie, you’ll be wondering why? The only attribute it has from that list above is it is Rated R.
The Story: Five kids get detention on a Saturday and are told to spend the day in silence. Instead, they spend their time goofing off, yelling at each other, getting to know each other, and finding out maybe, despite all being from different cliques, they have more in common than they previously thought. Also, the principal is a badass.
Trying to analyze why The Breakfast Club is being shown as a Midnight Movie (because you can’t just show any movie at midnight and call it a Midnight Movie), I found myself getting an answer that was more than I bargained for.
Music Box Theatre is a real Chicago Movie House, as opposed to let’s say, your average Cineplex that just happens to be in Chicago. Because of this, it makes sense that they would support local filmmakers and movie about Chicago. If you’re going to see a movie that takes place in Chicago, why not make it in a theater that’s true to Chicago?
The Breakfast Club, in addition to being a Chicago Movie, is a classic. For a movie to be a classic, it has to hold up against time and still stand strong, which means it has to be (fairly) older. With this comes two kinds of audience goers. Those who have seen the movie, love it, and watch it regularly and those who haven’t seen it at all, or in quite some time.
The great thing is, Midnight Movies are great viewings for both kinds of audience members. If you’re someone who would put The Breakfast Club in a Top 5 category of ‘Best (blank)’, then you get to see a special viewing of this movie, in a theater, as opposed to just on a rainy day at home. If you’re new (or returning after a long hiatus), then why not enjoy it with a crowd that’s at least half full of people who are going to laugh from recognition at all the right (and weird) places.
The movie opens with what will eventually be the closing essay, which serves as introductions to the characters and ultimately what they’ve learned at the same time. Each character is given a pep talk (or lack there of) by their parents which immediately enforces the stereotypes of their characters.
Molly Ringwald is Claire. She starts off complaining her dad can’t get her out of detention as he tries to apologize to her. She is the beautiful girl that catches everyone’s eye and has a good chance at winning the Prom Queen. She’s pretty and popular and she knows it.
Michael Anthony Hall is Brian, who starts off getting a stern talking to by his mother and how, even if told not to, he should break the rules to use his time to better himself as a student… He plays the straight edge, the one who is always saying “I don’t think this is a good idea” and usually (sometimes not even on purpose) sucking up to the authority figure.
Emilio Estevez is Andrew, who starts off getting it pretty light from his dad. What starts off as a ‘boys will be boys’ speech abruptly turns into a ‘don’t screw up your chances at a scholarship, boy’ speech. Andrew is the all American high school male. He is good looking and plays sports. He’s also a stereotypical male in that he likes to threaten or use physical competition to settle things.
Judd Nelson is John. He strolls in from the background, not even caring he is almost hit by a car. His parents no where to be seen. He plays the ‘badboy’, who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and call everyone out on everything.
Ally Sheedy is Allison. After getting out of the car, her parents drive off without so much as a word. Throughout the movie she plays the wildcard. Her character is a shy introvert who seems to have an endless supply of weird quirks. Its unsure if she started off socially awkward so she became weird or if she was weird which lead to a lack in social experience, but either way makes it hard for her to befriend anyone else.
And of course… Paul Gleason as Principal Richard Vernon. He comes in and lays down the law. For the most part he isn’t given any trouble by any of the students, but he and John clearly have a detention history together. He talks tough, even to the kids trying to be nice or help out. He has to, any sign of compassion could be mistaken as a sign of weakness and make detention ‘pointless’.
These descriptions of course are just surface level descriptions. At first, all the characters in the movie try to live up to these character types or judge others by them. As the movie continues, the characters start to notice that how they judge others, especially in how they treat others, affects them. Whereas before, if they made a snide comment in the hall, in passing, they could laugh about it while walking away. This Saturday however, they are all stuck, in the same room. Every insult and every confrontation has consequences, ones they can’t just walk away from, but come face-to-face with.
We meet these clique characters, The Brain, The Athlete, The Basketcase, The Princess, and The Criminal at the beginning and they treat each other like their reputation. By the end they are still these same clique characters. They don’t go through any huge changes. What they do go through, is an understanding that no matter what the clique is, every person in them is still a person. And every person just wants to be treated as a person.
What makes these characters so relatable are not what group they fit into, but their small quirks. How they talk, how they look at each other, how they sit, and how they dance. While the movie has plenty of opportunity for jokes and laughs, sometimes the biggest ones come from how a character reacts to a situation or interacts with another. So while these characters may just be stereotypes (with a little bit too much pre teen angst) , at least they become self aware by the end and explore each other’s reputation and individuality.
The other thing, from a writing stand point, that stuck out was the use of cliched/’real life’ saying’s like “Being bad feels good, huh?”, “I’m going to waste you.” and “Eat my shorts.” Normally this kind of dialogue gets cringes from an audience but here it isn’t used to dramatic effect, but rather show that each character is making a conscious decision in their choice of words to show to others how they want to be perceived.
While there is no main character, John ‘The Criminal’ Bender is the one who causes the most drama/trouble in the movie and has the most inter-character interactions. His chemistry with Principal Vernon is explosive and his ability to immediately get under people’s skin by calling them out is guilty pleasurable. In fact, most of what he says in the movie is right and its hard to argue with him, especially since the way he argues and his logic around others is great, but the most frustrating part is how abrasive and just plain rude he comes off as so consistently. You wish he could be as honest with people without being an ass, but then again maybe there is no way to tell people the truth about themselves because they don’t want to hear it.
He immediately knocks down Principal Vernon a couple of notches to show the other students that although he may be in charge, he does not have complete authority. One of the most exhilarating scenes is the ‘pissing contest’ the two have where Bender gets detention after detention. Later though, when the two are in private, out of sight of the others, Bender backs down and shows some humility.
While shot mostly in one room with still shots, the movie is not the most cinematic. Instead, Director John Hughes opts to keep things simple and work on the chemistry between the characters and the timing and rhythms to which they speak and act. For being a movie about 5 people in one room that are supposed to do nothing all day, this movie sure has a lot of steady potential build up and kinetic release of energy.
Its clear that these 5 kids have known each other for quite some time, having gone to the same school for a while, but they still have to learn each other’s names. And instead of being in class and being monitored, they are merely under the threat of supervision here and are forced to deal with each other head on. Buttons are pushed, tempers flair , feelings are shared, and friendships made. The Breakfast Club isn’t simply saying that everyone needs to be friends, its just saying that if you are forced into a room with someone and interact with them, you might find out that you have more in common than you think.
In Conclusion, what makes a movie a Midnight Movie over just a regular viewing? A regular viewing is for people to go see a movie with some friends in a room full of other people watching a movie with some friends. But a Midnight Movie is for people to experience a movie together. It tries capturing that wonderfully cinematic experience of bringing a room full of completely strangers together and have them all laugh and cry at the same time. The Breakfast Club is not only about that on the screen, but accomplishes it off screen and in the audience as well.