Monday, February 23, 2015

"The Breakfast Club" 30th anniversary

One of John Hughes' most iconic 80's films turns the big three-oh this month! Originally released in February of 1985, The Breakfast Club is coming back to theaters for limited engagements on March 26th and March 31st. Screening with it will be a featurette with interviews from cast members Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and and John Kapelos as well as film makers Diablo Cody (Juno), Amy Heckerling (Clueless), and Michael Lehmann (Heathers). The Breakfast Club 30th Anniversary Edition will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 10th.

30 years ago, I was out of high school and still trying to piece my life back together after a traumatic event. I needed a distraction, so I went to a movie. A friend of mine was into John Hughes' films - "Pretty in Pink" was her favorite. She recommended I go see "The Breakfast Club" because she thought I would enjoy it. She was right. I enjoyed it... so much so that I bought tickets to the next three showings and just stayed in the theater, watching it over and over. 

When I left the theater, I had Simple Minds stuck in my head singing "Don't You (Forget About Me)" on a loop, and I decided to take a long walk instead of going directly home. I walked from the theater down the main drag along the beach, and stopped at the beach park across the street from the zoo. (The bonus about growing up in Hawaii is that everything is across the street from the beach.) I sat on the wall, and I felt like life had become so surreal. I had just watched a movie that could have been about my own high school life. And now I was gonna sit on a wall at the beach and reflect for a bit. I knew at least one of these characters personally. They all live inside my head, and I know at least one real person for every personality type represented in this movie.

So there we were in detention, with Principal Verne. A jaded, angry man. He once enjoyed his job as an educator but not anymore. He gives everyone a lecture with the rules - "no talking, no laughing, no sleeping." He gives them an essay assignment. He wants them to write an essay telling him who they think they are.

Brian Johnson was the "brain" of the group - the "neo-maxi-zoom-dweeb." He was probably the one most likely to have a comic book collection that included Action #1 in pristine, mint condition. He was also under a lot of academic pressure from his parents. This resulted in Brian's brief suicidal depression over a failed shop project, and he did something that landed him in Saturday detention.

Andy Clarke was the "sport" of the group. Back in the 80's (at my school, anyway), a "sport" was someone who was on the track, wrestling, or swim team. A "jock" was someone who was on the baseball, basketball or football team. In today's vernacular, they would all be "jocks" or just plain athletes. Andy was on the wrestling team, and his father put a lot of pressure on him to win. This resulted in an unfortunate peer pressure situation that Andy didn't handle well, and he ended up in Saturday detention as well. 

Claire Standish was one of the popular girls. Her parents were going through a messy divorce, and she was milking it for all she could get. A spoiled rich kid, she was in detention for skipping class to go shopping.

Allison Reynolds was the "weirdo." She made a pixie-stick and Cap'n Crunch sandwich (she may have added some Fritos in there too, I couldn't ever really tell, even after watching it four times in a row on the big screen and countless times on DVD) after tossing her lunch meat up in the air. Like the others, she also had issues - at one point she claimed to be a nymphomaniac. Nobody knew why she was actually in detention until later. 

John Bender was the delinquent. He was in detention working off a string of offenses, none of which were ever made clear. What was made clear ("Crys-taaalll!") was that he would be having 7 more weeks of it. He had a reputation as being the campus bully. It turned out that Bender's behavior was masking some pretty serious issues at home. At first the group didn't believe him when he said he was being abused. Then he showed them the scars.

The movie as a whole takes us through a day in detention for these kids. Andy and Claire already knew each other, they ran in the same social circles. Everyone knew who Bender was, he was the campus "waste-oid," the one all the burners would hang out with. Allison was the loner, and Brian hung out with the math club.

During the course of the movie, the kids get to know a little more about each other, albeit the hard way. They start by insulting and picking on each other. But, they have a common enemy in Principal Verne and they start covering for each other whenever Verne comes in to check on them. At one point, Verne asks if anyone has to go to the lavatory.

The group takes this opportunity to go to Bender's locker to get his stash. As they are trying to get back to the library undiscovered, they have to duck and hide several times as Verne is roaming the halls too. Bender stuffs his weed in Brian's pants, and takes off toward the gym to draw Verne away while the group gets back to the library. This works, and Bender is busted in the gym.

Verne locks him in a storage closet. He gets up into the ceiling, and crawls back to the library. When he crashes down through the ceiling tiles, Verne comes in to see what the ruckus was. Bender ducks under the table where Claire is sitting. They all pretend to not know what the ruckus was. When Verne leaves, Bender retrieves his stash from Brian.

The group bonds over Bender's weed, and they have a melancholy group heart-to-heart, during which Brian, Andy, and Allison reveal the reasons that they are in detention. Brian failed a shop project. Due to pressure from his parents, he felt a deep guilt over it. He brought a flare gun to school, but it was discovered when it went off in his locker. 

Andy was under pressure from his dad (a bully of a former athlete, trying to live vicariously through his son) to be a winner - be the popular guy, be the champion wrestler, be everything. He gave in to locker-room peer pressure and taped a hairy kid's ass cheeks together. He knew it was wrong to do it, and he is now contrite and has many regrets and feels much shame and remorse over it. Allison... simply had nothing better to do.

Brian asks if they will still be friends on Monday. Claire says she doesn't think so. She tries to justify her answer by attempting to explain how the campus social pecking order works, but the group isn't buying it. They all promise each other that they won't treat each other like how the rest of the school treats them - like freaks. 

That scene was probably the most emotionally painful scene of the whole movie for me, because the opportunity for them to lay it all on the table was there. The thing that hurt the most for me was that this kind of soul-baring moment did happen more than once for my group of friends (without the weed), and yet not a single one of us realized the significance of it. In fact it all just ended up being empty words. So my pain was for the loss of what I felt could have been truly defining moments, however fleeting, for my group of friends.

Bender crawls back to his storage closet, and Claire gives Allison a makeover. Then she goes to make out with Bender in the storage closet. By the end of the day, Allison and Andy have paired off as well. They have all talked Brian into writing a single essay for Verne from all of them, and it goes something like this:

Raven Knighte is an avid movie, TV, and cosplay fan.

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