Over the holiday period, I went to see Pitch Perfect at the cinema because why would I not want to see a teen comedy starring the lovely Anna Kendrick and some a capella singing? Suffice to say it was awesome but there was a part of the film I couldn’t fully connect with. For perhaps the 600th time in film and TV, Pitch Perfect referenced John Hughes’ classic 80s’ film, The Breakfast Club which, until recently, I had never seen.
I’m not sure why I’ve never seen it before. I am a definite lover of teen movies and The Breakfast Club is a pretty high profile film of the genre. To have missed a generation changer is a pretty massive film crime. As I pushed the DVD slot in my laptop closed, a sense of trepidation set in. What if I don’t connect to this cinematic classic and thus the rest of my generation? What if it doesn’t change my life and instead I’m forever separate from the media’s constant adulations? What an obscene amount of pressure just from watching a movie on a Monday night!
Surprisingly, I knew very little about the film before watching it. I knew it starred Molly Ringwald, there was some entertaining table dancing and I knew the ending monologue and song, almost quotably well. However, I didn’t know it centred around the various students being in Saturday detention until I read the accompanying blurb. So let me start of by saying I enjoyed The Breakfast Club. It was entertaining, thoughtful, and nicely self-contained. The pacing was interesting as it interspersed longer scenes involving character development with silly yet fun montages of running, falling asleep and dancing – perhaps a nod to the innate ability to bond and develop while also holding some very short attention spans.
To be honest, I actually felt the film was too short. That may have something to do with the main development scene only appearing in the last 20 minutes, the prior 70 minutes solidifying the clichés before breaking them down, at least at surface level.
I enjoyed The Breakfast Club. I just didn’t love it.
So where did it go wrong for me? The most obvious answer would be the hype. The film was this massive focal point in so many lives. It changed people, moved them. I expected to be moved like never before but I wasn’t. Instead I felt fairly underwhelmed. I’m not really sure what else I expected content wise: more character development, crazy shenanigans, one big event that rocked the entire tone of the film? I think I just wanted more because, for me, it felt fairly generic.
Wait, don’t jump on me yet. Remember, I didn’t hate The Breakfast Club. I’m not lying when I say I enjoyed it and it is certainly a good film. I acknowledge that it probably feels generic to me because so many films in 90s’ and later have used it as a jumping point and it’s influenced most teen comedies in the past 20 years. The thing is, it’s not just the hype that ruined my preconceptions, there’s also the problem of age, both my own and the film’s. At the age of 22, I’ve already learnt the lessons and revelations discussed in The Breakfast Club. I’m no longer a teenager in High School dealing with “Jocks”, popular kids and peer pressure. Perhaps the most poignant moment for me was when the group are pressuring Claire (Ringwald) into confessing she’s a virgin and “basketcase” Allison (Ally Sheedy) comments:
“It kind of a double-edged sword… if you say you haven’t, you’re a prude. If you say you have, you’re a slut. It’s a trap”.
It’s still true today but it’s also something I learned years ago from teen movies and feminist studies. So yeah, at 22, I am too old to watch this movie for the first time. What a horrible revelation. At least I didn’t find myself relating to the teacher, Mr Vernon (Paul Gleason). That would’ve sent me down a depression spiral for sure.Having said this, there were two moments that sat a little uneasy with me. The first was when Bender (Judd Nelson) suggested raping Claire at the beginning which, while I know it was tongue-in-cheek and not meant to be taken seriously, completely threw me and meant I never really bonded with the character but instead remained wary of him. The other scene was Allison’s makeover from an awesome grunge look to “princess”. I honestly preferred her the way she was before her “prettifying”. What’s wrong with the black eyeliner? I understand the message of the film was “we’re all every clique” so it makes sense that she wants to try being a princess but, I don’t know. I’m clearly from the school of individualism rather than unity. Also, typically the geek is the odd one out. Truly ground breaking stuff.
Unfortunately, this means most references to The Breakfast Club will ring a little hollow for me. Anna Kendrick’s tears in Pitch Perfect are especially baffling. My advice would be to lower your expectations if you’re about to watch it for the first time and have left education. But if there’s a particularly cold evening you have to fill, The Breakfast Club is definitely an enjoyable watch.