The eighties brought us some great movies. It gave us Die Hard, and for a while we all thought that wearing a dirty vest was way cool. We had the purely indulgent romance of When Harry Met Sally. We cried for E.T. and laughed at The Man With Two Brains. And through all of this greatness, we had a bunch of movies that tried to put us into the heads of the American Teenager. Many of these movies were mere fluff, with one exception - those movies written, directed, or produced by John Hughes. And the greatest of these?
Popular opinion has it that this accolade goes to The Breakfast Club. Five kids ("a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal") locked in the school for Saturday detention for various infringements, overseen by a teacher who believes his own press cuttings and visited by a janitor who knows where the real power in the school lies. And that's it. Doesn't sound like much, but John Hughes is great at weaving a compelling story from the thinnest of threads.
The first character is Brian Johnson, the Brain. Brian is an academic achiever, is a member of several clubs (chess, physics, math) and is terrified to be in the same room as some of his fellow students this morning. Secondly we have Andrew Clarke, the Athlete. Star on the school wrestling team, his clique is the sporty types who can get themselves any college education they like by being the best at whichever sport they select. Allison Reynolds is the Basket Case. Silent, she sits at the back of the room, black make-up under black hair combed down to her black clothes, she makes no noises at all, and then will shock everyone by saying something outrageous. Claire Standish is the Princess, complete with rich parents, nice house, clean clothes, sushi for lunch, and no individuality at all. Finally we have the Criminal, John Bender. He's a bit of a headcase, a tough guy whose home life is violent and foul-mouthed, and who is constantly on the lookout for something new to rebel against.
For each of these we see a journey unfolding during their eight hours together. At the beginning, they are as far apart as ever, and arguments, violence, and accusations fly. However, as they are forced to spend more time together, they begin the slow, often painful journey towards understanding. The common enemy of Mr Vernon helps, because the one thing they agree on is that they shouldn't have to answer to the likes of him. And as they turn against him, they line up as the most unlikely friends you'd see. Claire and Allison begin poles apart, and come to realise that they aren't so different after all. Both crave attention, and both yearn to be accepted for themselves. But whilst one has conformed, the other has rebelled, and we see the acceptance that one has for the other come through. Andrew and Brian would normally never speak throughout their school lives, but the realisation that they are both under pressure to achieve - one scholastically and one athletically - provides a common ground from which to move forwards. And as each of them realise that there are more, bigger issues than their small worlds, they all appreciate that Bender has just as much right to be happy as they do, and maybe an even greater need for acceptance than any of them.
So the day rolls on - complete with trips out of the library to fetch Bender's stash of dope from his locker (whilst Mr Vernon is off raiding the school's confidential files), fights, pick-pocketing, astonishment over the variety of their packed lunches, spells in solitary confinement, and the revelations as to why each of them found themselves in detention that particular weekend.
At the end of the day, strange alliances had been forged, and it would be interesting to see the school on Monday morning, to discover how much of the talk was real and how much just bullshit.
The movie has fine performances from its stars, and a superb soundtrack which includes the Movie Anthem of the Decade, Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds. It's a movie unlike any other, and has to be in anyone's collection.