If you search John Hughes on twitter, you might be surprised. Despite multiple Buzzfeed articles claiming that his films are offensive, racist, sexist etc. (none of which are wrong admittedly), the love for his stories and characters persists.
Watching The Breakfast Club now for the first time, you could be struck by the language used. The way the characters treat each other at the beginning of their day in detention, and how dated some of those things are. But there is a realism and a weight at the heart of The Breakfast Club that transcends the era it was made in. Making it one of the most timeless, influential and hard hitting teen films ever made.
We meet our group of teens at 7am on a Saturday morning as they arrive for detention with the somewhat out of his depth Mr Vernon (Paul Gleason). We have Brian, a brain (Anthony Michael Hall), Andrew, an athelete (Emilio Estevez), Allison, a basket case (Ally Sheedy), Claire, a princess (Molly Ringwald) and John, a criminal (Judd Nelson). Each of these teens barely knows the others beyond reputation, and they begin the day with the typical animosity that exists between cliques.
As time goes on and they manage to somehow separate themselves from the watchful eyes and ears of Mr Vernon, an uncomfortable friendship develops between them. As they all learn that ultimately they're all going through some pretty tough stuff, despite appearances being to the contrary.
Taking the form of a teen version of 12 Angry Men, each character slowly reveals their anxieties to the others. Play-like and gradual, there is no forced bonding between them and a certain level of discomfort remains. Especially as the honesty extends to different social groups revealing how they really feel about each other.
It's the conversations we all wish we could have had. Who wouldn't want to tell the popular kids that actually, the nerds don't look up to you. Or for the jocks to bond with the academics over their mutual pressure from parents to achieve and be the best, no matter the cost to their mental health.
In this way The Breakfast Club is far, far ahead of it's time. Despite moments that delve into the crude in the way we expect from Hughes writing, it's actually minimal beyond certain language use that wouldn't pass today. The strength of it is the examination of how these kids, like Bowie says, know exactly what they're going through.
The Breakfast Club is arguably one of the best teen movies ever made, and it is given a brilliant release from Criterion here. The bonus features really lean into the nostalgia and affection for the film from both cast, crew and critics. With all of them speaking affectionately about working with Hughes and how involved they were in the creative process. The 50 minute archive documentary from 2008 also features interviews from modern writers, including one particularly funny moment where Diablo Cody mentions feeling betrayed by Ally Sheedy's character selling out. Those of us with a more alternative bend to our appearance will all know exactly how that feels. This is somewhat balanced by Ally Sheedy's discussion of how that scene was written and her requested adjustments to it, in that it begins to make sense in context.
For most film fans, this is a familiar film that many of us will have seen many times, but it holds up remarkably well and this release is arguably the best one we're ever likely to get.
The Breakfast Club joins the Criterion Collection on January 23rd