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Why the ‘The Breakfast Club’ matters

A fan says the film can get you back in touch with your inner Brain, Athlete, Basket case, Princess and Criminal


Posted December 11, 2012 by Brian Watanabe

When I first saw “The Breakfast Club,” I was awkward, pimply and smelled like Clearasil. While George Lucas and Steven Spielberg may have defined my childhood, the films of John Hughes defined my clumsy puberty. On Wednesday, Dec. 12, the ultimate high school movie, “The Breakfast Club” returns to Consolidated Theatres’ Hana Hou Picture Show at Ward. And while the film is a classic, you might ask, why would I want to go and watch five self-absorbed teenagers stuck in a library on a 35-foot screen? I’d rather see explosions. Or evil robots. Or horny teen vampires.

Back in 1985, before horny teen vampires swept the nation, Hughes, a former ad man and National Lampoon writer, was coming off his directorial debut, “Sixteen Candles.” His second film, “The Breakfast Club” was revolutionary in its frank portrayal of teen relationships. This film forged the indelible teen arch-types of the Brain (Anthony Michael Hall’s Brian), Athlete (Emilio Estevez’s Andrew), Basket case (Ally Sheedy’s Allison), Princess (Molly Ringwald’s Claire) and Criminal (Judd Nelson’s Bender).

These kids were ignored, abused, even suicidal — but in a fun way. In the book, “You Couldn’t Ignore Me if You Tried,” by Susannah Gora (from which much of my research was stolen), Hughes said, “At that age, it often feels just as good to feel bad as it does to feel good.” The movie was about how real teens acted — or at least how we all wanted to act. The awkwardness of adolescence was fine-tuned in our better-looking and wittier Shermer High surrogates. Yes, high school was a mess. But under Hughes’s lens, it was a beautiful mess, where cliques could be splintered and impossible connections could be made.

This seminal, R-rated anomaly was a box office success that launched the careers of the “Brat Pack.” The baby-boomer Hughes went on to create films that established him as the voice of Generation X, including “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Weird Science” and “Pretty in Pink.” Later, in stark contrast to the films that defined a generation of latchkey children, raised on reruns of “Happy Days,” Hughes went on to write “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “She’s Having a Baby” and “Home Alone.” The voice of Gen X grew up, and reluctantly, so did we.

And as we all know, when you grow up, your heart dies. We all wondered how Bender, Claire and Brian would turn out when they grew up (I bet they’re Facebook friends) but ask yourself, how did you turn out? Did you become a tiger dad like Andy’s Father? Are your best years behind you like Carl? Did you lose touch like Vernon? Maybe you did. But for one night, when you hear the drum-kick of “Don’t You Forget About Me” on those 75,000-watt surround sound speakers, you can travel back in time and throw baloney at the institutional art. You can get back in touch with your inner Brain, Athlete, Basket case, Princess and Criminal. For one night, relive the feeling of those wondrous, crazy high school years, zits and all.

“The Breakfast Club” nerd trivia:

• Nicholas Cage and John Cusack were considered for the role of John Bender.

• There were rumors that Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy might switch roles, with Ringwald playing Allison and Sheedy playing Claire.

• The iconic one-sheet poster for the film was shot by photography icon Annie Leibovitz.

• The fictional Shermer High, which was the setting for “The Breakfast Club”, “Sixteen Candles” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was named after Hughes’s hometown of Northbrook, Illinois. The town’s original name was Shermerville.

• The film was shot in sequence to help the actors’ performances. The final scene filmed was Nelson raising his fist on the football field.

Hana Hou Picture Show

“The Breakfast Club” screens at 7 and 10 p.m. at Consolidated Theatres Ward on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

For tickets, visit fandango.com

For more information, visit consolidatedtheatres.com

Movie poster courtesy of MVNP

“The Breakfast Club” original trailer

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About Brian Watanabe

Brian Watanabe is an advertising creative and screenwriter. His screenplay “The Rogues Gallery” was turned into the film “Operation: Endgame” starring Rob Corddry, Maggie Q, Ellen Barkin and Zach Galifianakis. Brian will be teaching a four-class screenwriting workshop for the University of Hawaii's Pacific New Media in April. Visit outreach.hawaii.edu/pnm for more info. Follow Brian on Twitter and Instagram at @brianwatanabe.

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