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
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
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.