The legendary (if media-propagated) Brat Pack proved to be an intrinsic part of 80s pop culture, and was a movement which grew primarily out of the films of John Hughes. The Michigan-born filmmaker enjoyed an incredibly prolific run in a relatively short time, but it was his seminal work The Breakfast Club (now celebrating its 30th anniversary) which stood out from the rest of the titles and really put him on the map as a key on-screen chronicler of teen angst. Finding a place within the hearts of subsequent teenagers and referenced much later (and most glaringly) by Dawson’s Creek creator Kevin Williamson, The Breakfast Club has, happily, stood the test of time.
As soon as the first bars to Simple Minds’ Don’t You Forget About Me kick in during the opening credits, an inescapable feeling of warm nostalgia can’t help but creep in. In an era brimming with bawdy teen sex farces, The Breakfast Club is the antithesis of this, offering a grounded and incredibly well-drawn portrayal of teenagers who have more pressing issues on their mind than getting laid. The film’s ridiculously simple premise and stripped down theatrical set-up is mined for rich dramatic and comedic effect by its director and scriptwriter. Adrift from the comfortable confines of their individual social groups (which are clearly delineated in the film’s opening voice-over) the characters, made up of disparate group of high-school students forced together by Saturday detention, are expertly dissected by their creator.
Hughes is almost like an invisible figure in the film, sitting silently on the periphery and observing the action (his closest screen embodiment is Ally Sheedy’s delightfully eccentric recluse). Class and social boundaries are put under the microscope, and while the kids speak in a mannered style which perhaps betrays their years (a device super-fan Diablo Cody adapted in her breakout hit Juno) the sharp and always insightful script never throws anything but a genuine gaze on the characters. The unforgettable cast complement each other perfectly, and while Molly Ringwald may have achieved something close to icon status with this and her subsequent roles from that period, it’s Judd Nelson (who seems to have dropped off the map completely) who makes the biggest impression here.
Nelson is an absolute force of nature as the ‘criminal’ of the pack – a bad boy nursing the scars of a painful upbringing. If the comedy is a little broad on occasion, it’s expertly balanced with the dramatic content which really comes to the fore as the film progresses. The introspective, almost Chekhovian nature of the latter part as the group asses their punishment is what truly sets it aside from other teen wannabes and has contributed largely to its cultural and emotional longevity. The Breakfast Club stands as one of the definitive teen films and when Nelson throws that triumphant fist pump at the very end of the film, this lovingly complied anniversary disc may give you the overwhelming desire to do the same upon viewing.