The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club ½

It did not take long for me to start hating this film. It doesn't seem like a great decision to put your moral in voiceover narration at the title credits, but I suppose the point was that we were supposed to recognise the clichés that are listed in the characters. The initial narration tells the teacher not to judge his pupils in simple pigeon-holed stereotypes which are listed as: a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.

So with that defiant message and the tune of "Don't You Forget About Me" we are introduced to each of the characters who have been put into a day-long Saturday detention. It is suggested to a girl that it might be a bad idea for her to skip school to go shopping and she sighs as if she is too cool to listen. Of all the characters being dropped off for school, the only one I can sympathise with is the 'brain' who is told by his mother that he should make sure he makes any excuse he can to use the time for studying (since the intention is apparently that the students should sit in silence and think about what they have done).

So besides the teen who wants to study, I feel like pretty much everyone at this detention needs to give me a reason to like them. Right now, I'm disinclined to like pretty much any of the five kids. So imagine my surprise when the most obnoxious of the teens who has been doing nothing but insulting everybody gets up to open everyone's eyes about how hard it is being an anti-social arsehole.

He enters into a discussion about school clubs and his lack of membership to any of them and decides to endear himself to me by mocking the 'brainy' student for being "a dork" and "demented and sad".

Of course, this is all after he's already got up to loudly and enthusiastically suggest: "...why don't you go close that door. We'll get the prom queen --impregnated!"

Yes, that's right. The character who is going to open our eyes is the same character who starts the film by trying to instigate a gang rape. Nice...

Towards the end of the film, the suggestion that the students need to stay in their seats is over. They are dancing around the library to loud music, getting high on pot and even giving each other makeovers. There are no real events in the film really. Just long drawn out conversations. Essentially this is "Dinner With Andre" set in a high school.

The "princess" explains that she won't be anyone's friend back in school and the "basket case" cannot stop stealing items the whole way through the film and admits to being an inveterate liar. So they prove to be pretty much exactly what their stereotypes would suggest. Except that the 'basket case' is actually prettier than the 'princess'... particularly BEFORE her unnecessary makeover.

The athlete gives a sob story about how he did not really want to be a horrible bully, but he had pressure from his dad to do so. Over the film he suggests that he has no choices in his life and is being bred like a racehorse and while Emilio Estevez might be a good enough actor to make the dialogue compelling, it doesn't take a lot of thought to recognise that what he is saying is not true. He's clearly just as free as any teenagers in school to make his own decision.

The "criminal" blames his behaviour on his upbringing. In fact, all of the teenagers seem to blame their parents for their mistakes. Naturally the best a school can do to deal with bad behaviour is ensure that children have the fixed rules and expectations which are not provided in their homes and to report to relevant services any evidence of actual abuse. But for the purposes of this movie, I'm expected to forget all that and to believe that detentions represent pure vindictiveness against poor innocent children. And to ensure that I make that naive appraisal of the situation, we get to see the teacher in charge actually threaten to beat up the obnoxious teenager.

The 'criminal' character is clearly an obnoxious bully, but we are expected to forgive him because he's had a tough life (as if one negated the other). There have been trials where lawyers have tried to make similar arguments when defending serial killers. Sob stories do not undermine guilt.

Finally the 'brain' explains the reason he is in detention. Apparently he had a weapon in school with every intention of using it to commit suicide. All the other characters laugh and ask him to write their paper for them.

This movie disgusts me.

Reviewed as part of a retrospective here:

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