Sunday, August 9, 2009

John Hughes: My Teen Savior. The Breakfast Club

I'm continuing my personal homage to the films of John Hughes, who passed away Thursday, August 6th.

The Breakfast ClubThis is, for me, the best of Hughes' teen films. He had me from the opening with the following screen caption:

"And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds;are immune to your consultations, they are quite aware of what they are going through." -David Bowie


Five high school kids have Saturday detention, and from the start, each character's perspective is revealed to us as their not-so-happy parents drop them off. Well, except for John Bender (Judd Nelson), who arrives alone, fittingly, by foot.

The setting, in the school's library, where most of the action takes place, is just closed off enough to remind one of the isolation each teen feels in their own worlds. The only other characters they interact with through the rest of the movie being Mr. Vernon the detention teacher, played by Paul Gleason, and Carl the janitor, played by John Kapelos.

I loved every word uttered in this film. Every scene was played with truth by each actor. Even Paul Gleason was on the money with his characterization of the vile Mr. Vernon. I hated him from the depths of my being the moment he stepped onto the screen and pitied his small mind by the end.

Of all John Hughes' characters, in all his films, Ally Sheedy's character, Allison, ("the basket case") is the one I most identify with. The funny thing is I never realized it until years later. No, I wasn't a klepto or a pathological liar, and my parents never neglected me. BUT, I did hide my face behind my hair, wore big, baggy clothes/dresses that hid my figure, and most importantly, didn't care if I was different from everyone else or if I stood out like a sore thumb. I actually relished being different, even odd. I'm kind of proud of that now. I never wanted to look or act like everyone else. I never had the desire to "fit in".

I must admit, though, that when Allison blossoms with the help of Claire (Molly Ringwald), and attracts the attention of Andrew (Emilio Estevez), my teenage heart melted. I felt a ray of hope that the same thing might actually happen to me. Though, I would have much rather gained the attention of misunderstood bad-boy, John Bender (Judd Nelson).

John Hughes wrote some of the best dialogue that millions of fans find themselves quoting to this day. Most of the best lines, I think, are given to bad-boy Bender, of course.

Here are just a few that I love:

Bender comparing brainy Brian's academic clubs to what Claire describes as her more "social" clubs:
Bender: So it's sort of social. Demented and sad, but social, right?
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Bender to Mr. Vernon:
Bender: How come Andrew gets to get up? If he gets up, we'll all get up, IT'LL BE ANARCHY!

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Bender to Brian:
Bender: But face it, you're a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie.

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After Brian laments his "F" in shop class:
Bender: Why'd you think it'd be easy?
Brian: Have you seen some of the dopes that take shop?
Bender: I take shop. You must be a f*ckin' idiot!
Brian: I'm a f*ckin' idiot because I can't make a lamp?
Bender: No, you're a genius because you can't make a lamp.
Brian: What do you know about Trigonometry?
Bender: I could care less about Trigonometry.
Brian: Bender, did you know without Trigonometry there'd be no engineering?
Bender: Without lamps, there'd be no light.


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Allison, just being Allison:
Allison: You wanna know what I did to get in here? Nothing; I didn't have anything better to do.

Oh, man, I could go on and on with this. Every line in this film is quotable.

It's such a touching portrait of each kid. It was comforting to watch these kids open themselves up to each other. To find that, no matter your family background or which high school clique you belonged to (or didn't belong to), we all have our own issues. All of us. No one comes out of life unscathed, especially from our teen years. Everyone has their own unique back-story. These five kids were brought together and were able, for one afternoon, to see past the stereotypes.

And of course, at the end, we have the required essay to Mr. Vernon, written by Brian on behalf of them all:

Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us... In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is...
...a brain...(Brian Johnson)
...and an athlete...(Andrew Clark)
...and a basket case...(Allison Reynolds)
...a princess...(Claire Standish)
...and a criminal...(John Bender)
Does that answer your question?... Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.

Come back tomorrow for Part III: Pretty In Pink.

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