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Snap, crackle, pot
by Derek Malcolm

THERE is nothing quite so depressing, for anyone but teenagers, as the average American movie directed towards the youth market. But John Hughes, whose previous credits include scripting National Lampoon's Vacation, has come up with something much more intelligent in The Breakfast Club. His first feature as writerdirector to reach us -- there are another two on the way -- is simply in a different league to Porkys and the like.

The club members in question are five young students serving a day's detention at a Chicago high school. They are under the supervision of a bored and cynical teacher who clearly hates their recalcitrant guts, and sets them the task of writing a 1,000-word essay on who the hell they think they are. Judging by first acquaintance, one would be agreeably surprised if more than two of them could complete their own names and addresses in the time.

Soon a slab of cannabis is fished out of the locker-room by one of them, smoked by the company and taking its effect in what passes for their minds.

So far, though the hectoring teacher is instantly dislikeable, you also wonder what anyone could do for such surly, blank-eyed and uninquisitive charges. What Hughes then slowly but surely does is make us like them. That is the small miracle of a literate script, some cleverly emphasised character development and good, tight direction.

Not only do you sympathise, but you also begin to know them. And there's nothing more revealing in this respect than what they eat for lunch, depending upon which of the various class backgrounds they come from. This is a sequence that Chabrol, that paragon of social gastronomy, could scarcely have bettered.

Finally, we are told what ails them -- sexual uncertainty, a total inability to explain themselves, even to each other, parents who demand their respectability at all costs and a whole society that angrily refuses them space to be different.

Perhaps we are near to cliche here. Yet the film never really tips over into bathos and predictability.

Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy are the students, each giving the sort of performance that heralds considerable talent. The film will undoubtedly speak to those at whom it is aimed, and I hope others too. It isn't that wonderful. But it's much, much better than usual.