I remember the first time I saw The Breakfast Club, and in fact this was my introduction to John Hughes. I was in high school, in grade 9, and one of our gym teachers, of all people, put it on for us during one of our gym classes, as the idea of acceptance, and the fact that we all have our static and problems, whether we all hang in the same clique or not, was an important one to take on board.
Sure some of it, watching it now, makes you see the characters in a different way, Bender (Judd Nelson) is a complete tool to Claire (Molly Ringwald) and yet somehow ends up being her romantic choice in the film? One could make the argument that they are teenagers, and go with the belief that when you’re a kid you pick on the girl you like, but Bender is decidedly cruel to Claire, and everyone else, but Claire in particular.
But at the time, when we first watched it, it was like seeing people we knew on screen, though my high school was never truly big enough to have multiple cliques, but everyone definitely had their own issues and lives.
Five students are thrown together for a detention on a Saturday, there’s the jock, Andrew (Emilio Estevez), the pretty girl, Claire, the outcast, Bender, the misfit, Allison (Ally Sheedy), and the geek, Brian (Anthony Michael Hall). They are stuck in the library all day, working on an essay, Who Do I Think I Am, overseen by Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), who hates the kids he teaches, and perhaps hates his life as well.
The five think they have nothing in common, but over the course of the day, they discover what ended each of them in detention, how they see the world, and that they are very much more than the stereotype that they, and the audience perceived them as at the beginning of the film.
It remains my favorite John Highes film, and the one I watched on the day I learned of his death.
Funny, dramatic, and with voices that sounded like teenagers, sharing thoughts and experiences that I could relate to, this one resonated with me, found its way to my core, and has been carried by my ever since. From the laugh out loud moments, to the tender revelations that the person sitting across from you is just as troubled as you are, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to hang out ever again.
It’s a brief shining moment of connection (with so much quotable dialogue) in the nightmare that people recall as high school (honestly my high school years weren’t so bad, I wish I had spent more time with my friends, and done more with them. It was my home life that I wish had been different).
But we live we learn and Hughes, though it all, even now, still talks to us.