Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Breakfast Club

Don't you just hate teen movies? The cliched characters that always fit into pre-established stereotypes?
Well I do. I can't think of anything more droll. If only someone would make a movie about how worthless these labels are and encourage people to look deeper. And they should make one soon.
Is 30 years ago soon enough?
This movie is a classic. It takes school movie cliches and inspects them carefully, examining exactly how characters such as these would be created in the real world.
And it does it in a way that allows almost anyone watching it to identify with it.
We open with the credits, as old films were wont to do.
The font's terrible, but the music's awesome.
The song's called Don't You Forget About Me, by Simple Minds. Look it up on the YouTubes, because it's simply amazing.
Music by Simple Minds, quote by Bowie. Seems legit.
The quote above suddenly smashes outwards, presumably inspiring half of Labyrinth, to reveal a High School behind it.
A very boring High School.
As someone starts reading a letter to their teacher about being in detention on a Saturday (Which just sounds cruel these days) the camera switches between different shots within the school, including a vandalised locker. While the shots seem mostly random, several are integral to the plot. There's a burnt-out locker, a newspaper clipping about a girl named Claire, a desk covered in Rorschach tests and more. They may mean nothing to us now, but later on we'll easily be able to pin them to their respective characters.
Speaking of which, there are five main ones.
Back then, Burberry meant posh. What a difference 3 decades can make.
Normally I would tell you their names, but we don't learn them until about a third of the way into the movie. That girl's the 'Popular fashionista' stereotype for the movie. We're introduced to her as she complains about her father not being able to get her out of detention. Also, she's there only because she ditched class to go shopping.
They're not going to be subtle with these stereotypes are they?
At least the brainy kid isn't wearing glasses.
The second kid is being chewed out by his mother, not because he's in detention, but because he's missing out on precious study time.
But hold off on that 'Worst parent ever' award, there's even worse yet to come.
For example, this douchenugget.
He's disappointed that his son's in detention. Again though he's not upset about his sons' misbehaviour, but about being caught, since it might mess up his wrestling career. For his part his son (Played by Emilio Estevez) just pouts unhappily.
The last two sets of parents aren't shown on-screen.
"Hey! He's walking there!"
The guy on the right is the typical teen yob character. Inside the car is the weird kid and her dad, who for his part doesn't say anything or even get out of the car. He just stops, lets her get out, then drives off.
Even though his daughter does try.
The five kids choose their seats in the library, with the yob glaring at the brain until he moves away and the weirdo hides in the back corner. It's a good little moment that shows that the kids don't know each other but instantly recognise their respective cliques.
Then the school Principal arrives.
This guy
He enters and gives each kid a sheet of paper, instructing them to write an essay about who they think they are.
And that's pretty much the whole movie summed up right there. At the beginning the kids believe that they know themselves and each other, but as they sit around for eight hours and talk they realise that there's more to each other than just their cliques. No-one can be summed up by just one word.
The yob kid (Named Bender) snarks at the teacher, who gives him another Saturday detention and leaves.
We get treated to some awkward moments between the characters which again show that they don't know each other (Or feel inclined to), but mostly reveal that bender is an arse.
For example, here he's pretending to urinate.
Bender and the jock start arguing, with the jock outright stating that bender doesn't matter and if he vanished he wouldn't be missed. Which is rather cruel really.
He responds with something about maybe he should join the wrestling club then, or the prep club. The fashionista reckons that he's just scared that they wouldn't accept him and so he knocks it.
That's when the brain pipes up saying that he's in the physics club. Bender asks fashionista if she's in the physics club, to which she scoffs that it's an academic club.
And Bender calls her out on her hypocrisy magnificently.
There's a lot packed into this scene as the characters argue with each other and reveal their hatred and disdain for anyone not in their clique.
Before they get to loud though the teacher walks past and bender has an idea.
He removes a screw and the door slams shut. When the teacher enters he demands to know what happened, but despite having told bender to stop, none of them are willing to rat him out.
This is a good moment because it shows (Without telling) that as much as the kids hate Bender, they hate the teacher even more.
After failing to wedge the door open he decides to leave it closed.
As far as teachers go, he's pretty incompetent.
Oh, the jock's name is revealed as Andrew in this scene. It's better than the teacher's first name, Dick.
Dick knows that it was Bender who removed the screw and they start arguing, with Dick issuing Bender Saturday detentions for the next two months, all for petty insults.
"Eat my shorts" wasn't even a phrase before Bender made it up.
He even gives Bender another Saturday detention after the brain counts up how many detentions he's been given.
"EFF YOU!" Indeed.
Time passes with more inane antics, such as Bender setting his own shoe on fire.
Yeah, it baffled me too.
After a while they all fall asleep and we're treated to this amusing image.
I call this piece "Teacher's frustration".
After a toilet break Bender is tearing apart some books. Once again he snarks at Andrew, who turns around and invites the fashionista to a party. She thinks but turns it down due to her parents, who're on the verge of divorce. bender suddenly asks her which she likes better, her mum or her dad.
She says her brother, since both of her parents only use her to get back at each other.
But it's interrupted by the weird girl suddenly screaming.
Andrew doesn't have any sympathy for the fashionista though and Bender asks if he gets along with his parents.
"If I say yes I'm an idiot right?"
"You're an idiot anyway, but if you say yes then you're a liar too."
Surprisingly insightful.
Andrew gets angry and shoves Bender, threatening to waste him, but Bender just blows it off. The brain jumps in between them (Surprisingly brave of him) and points out that he doesn't get along with his parents either. Bender blows this off too, saying that he's every parents wet dream. Andrew stands up for him, asking his name (Brian) and Bender walks off.
But only so far as to insult the fashionista over her name (Claire) saying that she'll get fat.
Then he gets really creepy by asking if she's a virgin and talking about feeling her up, in detail.
Sure, he's insightful, but he uses this skill to be a more effective arsehole.
He'd make a great lawyer.
Andrew intervenes this time and threatens Bender, who calls him out.
He instantly regrets that decision.
This is why you don't pick a fight with the school's champion wrestler.
Andrew lets Bender up, who threatens to kill Andrew but does it while walking away.
When Andrew calls him "Chickens***" Bender pulls a knife and stabs it into the chair next to him.
Andrew doesn't back down though, telling Bender not to talk to her.
Although his bravado might be aided by the weirdo stealing the knife.
An unspecified amount of time passes and janitor Carl enters the room on his rounds. Bender asks how one becomes a janitor. Carl realises that they're mocking him and he points this out. Although he may be a lowly janitor he pays attention. He reads their mail, goes through their lockers and listens to their conversations.
I'm not sure what he's intending for this speech to mean, but all I get from it is that he's very creepy.
"Look into my eyes."
After he leaves we skip to 11:30 (Almost halfway into their detention) and the kids are whistling. I know it's some important American song, but to me it'll always be a short ditty about how Hitler had but one testicle.
Although "Go Go Power Rangers" might be more appropriate.
Dick enters and informs them that they have 30 minutes for lunch. Bender asks about refreshments and Dick relents, but he doesn't let Bender go to get them, instead instructing Andrew and the weirdo to go instead.
As they're walking along Andrew attempts to strike up a conversation, but the weirdo just stays silent.
At least until she suddenly declares that she drinks vodka.
I'd like it on record that I do not mean "Weirdo" as an insult.
He asks why she's in detention but she turns the tables. Andrew says he's there because he gets treated differently since he's a winner. He doesn't want to be a winner, he just is one. He likens himself to a racehorse, respected for his strength and speed, but given no freedoms.
But weirdo just points out that he didn't answer the question and walks off.
Back in the library Bender is being a bit of a git, but at least in a funny way. he does assume that Brian is a virgin to which Brian protests, saying that he lost it to a Canadian girl at Niagara Falls.
Really Brian? That's your story?
I'm a massively gullible sap and even I don't believe that one.
When Bender asks if he's had sex with anyone local Brian glances at Claire and gestures for Bender to shut up.
But Bender's a colossal jerk and he blabs about it, prompting Brian to admit his virginity, he only glanced at Claire because he didn't want her to know.
To her credit she's quite sweet about it, pointing out that there's nothing wrong with a guy being a virgin.
(FYI, as someone who lost his quite late, there's a lot of stigma about being a virgin, particularly after about 22 or so. By that point people seem to think that if you haven't lost it then you're either saving yourself, or there's something wrong with you. It's BS, but it's quite real.)
Then we get to lunch, which is another opportunity to learn a lot about the characters without it being directly told to us (There are so many modern directors I could insult there)
Claire's having sushi, which may not be that unusual now, but was practically unheard of 30 years ago.
The reaction shot says it all.
Andrew is apparently part Saiyan since he pulls enough food out of his bag to feed an average sumo wrestler (presumably it's to keep him in a certain weight category). Bender plonks himself down next to Brian and rummages through his lunch, which is as stereotypical as it comes (Including PB and J sandwiches with the crusts removed. PB and J is disgusting, by the way).
For a moment it looks like bender will 'share' Brian's lunch, but he doesn't, and it's pretty doubtful that he ever intended to.
Then we get the weirdo's lunch.
At first it's a baloney sandwich, but she removes the baloney and replaces it with pixie sticks and Captain Crunch.
In other words, sugar and cereal.
I think it's adorable and I don't care about your opinions.
The lunch does get sidetracked by Bender, who mocks Brian's lunch and does his impression of Brian's (Supposedly perfect) parents.
At first everyone is smirking along, but as the 'perfect' parody goes on their smiles fade.
Andrew asks about Bender's family and he says it's easy.
And the picture he paints isn't a pretty one. He plays his parents as abusive and neglectful, with his father beating both his mother and him.
Brian asks if that's true and Andrew calls BS.
There's no joke here, this is horrifying.
Bender storms off and angrily smashes something before sulking.
Elsewhere Dick spills his coffee and goes to get another, which prompts bender to leave the library, followed by the rest of the group. He goes to his locker and retrieves some drugs, but they get into trouble trying to return before Dick notices. After barely dodging him in a routine that would make Scooby Doo proud they end up trapped and cut off from the library.
Bender figures that since Dick already hates him he'll take the fall, telling the rest to sneak back while he distracts Dick.
But not before getting distracted by Dick.
After getting himself caught he's frogmarched back to the library by Dick, who demands to know where he hid his drugs.
When Bender makes a joke about it being in Brian's shorts (Which is true) Dick snaps and says that the real joke will be Bender in five years as he rots away in jail.
Dick practically drags Bender away and locks him in the store cupboard.
Then we get what is wuite possibly the most controversial scene in the movie. Dick threatens to beat Bender senseless.
He even offers his chin to give Bender the first punch, pointing out that no-one would believe him. This scares Bender witless, presumably because it's similar to how his father acts at home.
But it also shows Bender something. It shows him that with the way he acts, with his behaviour and history as a troublesome child, no-one would believe him. Coupled with earlier, when Andrew didn't believe him, it forces Bender to look at himself from the perspective of others.
And my theory is that he sees his father.
Although I doubt this realisation was intentional.
When Dick leaves, bender sneaks out of the room via the ceiling panels, but crashes into the library and hides as Dick storms in. bender does not exactly choose the best hiding spot though.
Although that depends on your perspective.
While the others defend him he shoves his face into Claire's underwear, because he's a pervert who doesn't know about boundaries.
These days this would be considered a line that shouldn't be crossed, but back then it was just considered to be a jape. A teen boy doing what comes naturally.
Personally, this scene squicks me out.
Then everyone gets high.
Well, everyone except her. Which raises my opinion of her considerably.
Again, this is a scene whose acceptability changes with the times. But whether you agree with the idea of taking drugs or not (For the record, I'm against it) the characters do get closer because of it, even joking with each other. And then Emilio Estevez destroys a glass door with the power of his crotch.
It's as bizarre as it sounds.
Then there's an odd scene where Dick is reading Bender's psychiatric files, but Carl comes in and points out that Dick could get in real trouble for doing that.
So Carl blackmails him for $50.
I'm sorry, were we supposed to like Carl? Because I don't. At all.
After that we get another weird scene, where the weirdo (Whose name is finally revealed to be Allison) reveals that she stole Brian's wallet.
Everyone's going through each others bags and the weirdo's feeling left out, so she dumps her bag out.
She says it's so that she can run away at a moment's notice, but Andrew sees straight through it. he points out that a girl would only keep that much stuff if she was going to run away, or if she wanted to give the impression that she was going to run away.
She storms off, but Andrew follows and presses her for more. She tries to turn it around again, pointing out that he does whatever anyone tells him to do, but he accepts it and turns it straight back, getting her to admit what her parents do to her.
They ignore her.
This is a very interesting revelation, since it explains her whole character. No-one pays her any attention (As shown when they dropped her off) and so she engages in weird, unusual behaviour in order to get herself noticed. But because of this people avoid her and so she doesn't get any experience in social situations and as such, whenever a social situation does come up she panics and flees.
She wants attention, but she's not used to it and is therefor scared of it.
When I first watched this movie I thought I would identify with the brainy kid most. But instead, it's the weirdo.
I told you I didn't mean it as an insult.
Anyhoo, elsewhere Dick and Carl are chatting about how the kids view Dick. He reckons they've turned on him, but Carl reckons it's because Dick became a teacher for the wrong reasons. He wanted an easy job, but instead found it tough. Eventually, instead of focusing on helping children become adults, he started to focus on how he's perceived by the children.
I still think he's creepy.
And now we get to what is essentially the final big scene. The kids are sitting down relaxing. By this point they all consider each other friends.
It starts with Claire asking if Andrew would drive to school naked for a million dollars. This prompts Allison to say that she'd do anything sexual, for money or for free, and that she already has. She says that she did it with her psychiatrist.
She and Claire get into a argument over whether sleeping around is morally viable or not and everyone starts pressuring Claire to reveal if she's ever had sex or not.
When she eventually admits that she hasn't, Allison admits that she's a compulsive liar and a virgin too.
Claire's face is priceless.
Claire calls Allison bizarre, but Andrew sticks up for her, claiming that they're all pretty bizarre. After a prompt from Allison he admits what he did to get detention.
He taped a nerd's buttcheeks together.
Sounds like a joke right?
Well, when they pulled the tape off, most of his hair and even some skin came off too.
Andrew explains why he did it. He was raised on his father's stories of the pranks he pulled in school. And Andrew couldn't bare being a disappointment to his father and so he started pulling pranks too. Eventually everyone started to expect it and he escalated them.
But after the tape incident, as he was getting told off by Dick, all he could think about was how disappointed the nerd's father was.
This man is a dang good actor.
Andrew goes on, talking about his father and how he can't relate anymore. Everyone gives a great performance here. The camera switches between the others as they tear up from his story, especially Brian and Bender.
It's underscored when Bender says that maybe their dad's should get together and go bowling. It's a rather subtle way of saying that they're both the same.
Brian asks what will happen on Monday when they're back in school together. He asks if they'll still be friends or if they'll pretend not to know each other.
Andrew says that he would still be friends but Claire says that's BS. She says that if Brian went up to Andrew, he would say hi but then talk bad about him behind his back so that he can stay cool with his friends.
Andrew denies it, but Claire continues, saying that it's not just him. She confronts Bender and says that if they were in school together then he would pretend to be sleeping with her  in order to maintain his image.
He takes it well.
Bender says that she doesn't know any of his friends since she would never lower herself to talk to them, so she'd be better off if she stuck to what she knew, like shopping. After the shouting match Brian says that it must mean him and Allison are better people, since they'd never do that. he thinks it would be a real horrible thing to do.
Claire of course, utterly screws it up by thinking that Brian's friends wouldn't mind because they look up to Claire and her friends.
Claire has a real knack for upsetting people in this scene.
Brian reveals why he's in detention. He's flunking shop, which has ruined his GPA (Something that we don't have in the UK thankfully). He couldn't cope with the pressure his mother was putting on him to keep perfect grades, so he brought a gun to school. It's not exactly stated what he wanted to do with it, but it's heavily implied to have been suicide.
Fortunately it was just a flare gun, which went off in his locker.
Pictured: The best response to give when someone admits they attempted suicide.
Even Brian admits that it's pretty funny.
Oh, and finally, Allison reveals why she's in detention.
She had nothing better to do on a Saturday.
Five teenagers with attitude.
Then there's a dance montage, for no real reason other than to show that they've really become friends.
And give us some sweet dance moves.
As Bender sneaks back to the store cupboard Claire asks Brian to write the paper for all of them, since they'd all write pretty much the same thing. As he gets started Claire drags Allison away and gives her a makeover, saying that she looks better without all of that "Black s***" around her eyes.
Allison says that she likes the "Black s***" and I agree with her.
After the makeover she steps out and Andrew's jaw hits the floor.
Ok, I will admit that she's cute, but I still prefer the "Black s***".
I think the transformation was unnecessary, but it's more important that it's a symbol of their friendship.
The kids all leave, being sure to say goodbye to Carl. Brian gets in his dad's car with no fanfare. Andrew and Allison share a kiss before they depart (I prefer her with Brian, but oh well).
Bender and Claire also share a kiss, with Claire giving bender her earring, which he immediately puts in and I think it's possibly the most romantic gesture I've ever seen.
Sometimes the smallest gestures are the biggest.
Dick reads the essay, which is rather short. It just says that it doesn't matter who they think they are, since people will look at them and make assumptions based on their appearance. Jock, brain, fashionista, yob or weirdo. But they're all more complicated than just that, they're all a little bit jock, brain, fashionista, yob and weirdo.
And thus, the movie ends.
This movie is considered a classic and for good reason. It takes a look at the stereotypes associated with school life and breaks them down. It explores how these stereotypes would come to exist.
The answer is, they come from their parents. The faults of their parents decide what motivates children. This is further molded by the attitudes of their teachers. Dick's apathy towards these children prevents them from breaking out of their molds and becoming fully-rounded adults.
It's been thirty years, but this movie's just as relevant today as it was the day it was released.

Next week (Actually, this Saturday) I finally get past the letter B and move onto the letter C. And once you see what movie it is, you'll know why I've been dreading it.

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