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June Blind Spot: The Breakfast Club

Posted on the 25 June 2013 by Shantanu Ghumare @u_me_films
Without any real intention or even a reason, past two weeks have turned into a mini-break from this blog. I even promised I am not going anywhere in the last post. Sometimes you have to concentrate on your other life. I do have it you know, at least some of it. It wasn't like I didn't have any time to see anything at all in last two weeks but I used most of what I had watching The Story of Film: An Odyssey(2011). However I wasn't going to give up on two of my monthly features. That will cover the next two posts and I will try and see if I can squeeze in a review in between them. Starting off with the Blind Spot entry for this month, John Hughes' The Breakfast Club(1985).
June Blind Spot: The Breakfast ClubFirst and foremost, what makes this a Blind Spot movie? In other words, why is this film essential?
80s never was a decade I get excited about. In fact, I have often said that it is my least favorite decade for the movies and still stick to it. I know there are a lot of iconic films made in '80s which people still praise a lot(Indiana Jones, Blade Runner(1982)) but unfortunately, a lot of them don't really work for me.The problem is they aren't bad movies, it's just that they are too 80s if you know what I mean. However in a true spirit of a movie buff, I constantly challenge my own perception of it in hope of finding something that will stick with me and a good thing is I have found few films that I really like. Take Paris, Texas(1984) for example, which I saw just last month. So when I made this list back in December, this is exactly what I had in mind - I was looking for a typical '80s movie which is almost universally praised. Hughes' teenage drama The Breakfast Club which many people consider to be 'the best teenage movie ever' took the cake.
So, what is the story about?
Five High school students have been summoned in a library on Saturday for a detention by their principal. All he wants them to do is write in no less than 1000 words who they think they are and what they have done to deserve this Saturday detention. Off course, the 5 people that have to spend 8 hours together, doing pretty much nothing, are from 5 completely different factions in school. You will probably not find a more diverse group in a typical American high school even if you try. In their own words, they are a Brain or a geek, an athlete, a criminal or a habitual trouble maker, a basket case or a socially outcast and a a Princess or a rich, pretty snob. It starts off as you would expect it to start off, with calling each other names, trying to show others how bad they are. However as they spend more time with each other and even get to know each other, they realize how similar they are. As they slowly open up to each other and tell their stories, they realize what people perceive them are the masks they have put on but deep down inside, they are pretty much the same. They have similar likes, similar dislikes. Most importantly, they all try really hard to keep their respective masks on even though they are all suffocating inside them.
June Blind Spot: The Breakfast ClubIn ways that I don't think any of them would have imagined before coming in, this detention helps them see real themselves, brings out a side of them that they wouldn't be necessarily comfortable with otherwise and also see beyond what naked eye can see in other person and respect them for what they are. In the end, 5 of them ask Brian or brain to write the letter Mr. Vernon asked them to write on their behalf. We see two versions of this letter, one at the start and another at the end. These two versions or the way second version changes from the initial one is the real indication of what they all taught each other during the 8 hours they spent together, unwillingly and on a Saturday detention.
What did I think of it? What did I like the most about it and what didn't I like?
A little over year ago, I spent couple of weeks watching only '80s movies. I had just realized that not only was the amount of movies from the decade I had seen was abysmally low, I didn't care for much of what I had seen. That was the start of my 80s aversion. First film that reassured me there is still some hope for me was Ferris Bueller's Day Off(1986); another teenage movie by John Hughes. Having heard a lot of praise about Sixteen Candles(1984), I would say that one thing John Hughes can do really well is teenage drama. He really gets the pulse of this movie right, grabs it very early and never lets it go. What works best is not only all the 5 lead characters are interesting, each of them has a distinct and well drawn arch. They have their own identities and despite they all change by the end, they don't assume each others roles. They are still the same person they were at the start; maybe just like the better version of themselves. Another thing a non-American me appreciated about this film was being able to see people I went to high school with, in them. Off course, in our case, there would be a little different stereotypes but being able to identify with them, something that I can not say about some of the other teenage films I have seen, makes The Breakfast Club a little more universal.

I did have couple of small problems with it like once John is locked up in a closet, he comes back to library through vent but afterwards Claire comes in through the door? How did she even know where was he? Another thing is, I probably can attribute this to my Bollywood honed instincts, after first 15 minutes or so I knew that if there are any couples by the end, they will be Claire-John and Andrew-Allison. So that part didn't surprise me. But I know that I am really nitpicking here. None of these points hamper your enjoyment of the movie in any way. So, I wouldn't worry much about them. I have no idea what the titles refers to though. What am I missing?

June Blind Spot: The Breakfast ClubAfter having seen it, do I agree with its 'essential' status? And why?
What will essentially decide if this film is...essential is if I agree with those who call this 'Best teenage movie ever'. I think it is a good film. I think it is one of the best teenage movies I have seen and is worth every minute of its time. Is it essential? Time will decide. I have seen it just this weekend and I will have some mulling to do before answering this question with any certainty but it does have the potential to be. Another problem with calling it an essential is I am not entirely sure what makes a good teenage film? Dazed and Confused(1993) was something I had very lukewarm reaction to but apparently it gets a lot of things right about kids that age. Not being the product of American school system, my relation or response as an outsider looking in is distant at best. As I have stated before, The Breakfast Club definitely gets bonus points for making the characters relatable to even an outsider like me but that also makes choosing what is right and wrong little bit tricky. If I can answer that, deciding whether it is essential or not will be lot easier.
Does it open few new doors for me? Does this inspire to watch any other movies?
Well, it does a couple of things good for me. First and foremost, it keeps my faith alive that despite being my least favorite decade '80s still can surprise me. It can still have movies that I will like. That will help me keep exploring for more titles. It also reassures John Hughes' status as 'King of Teens' and gives me couple of more titles from his repertoire that I can look forward to.

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