TBT – The Breakfast Club (1985)

favourite, John Hughes, TBT, teen movie, teenagers

After the disappointment that was One of Us is Lying last week, I decided that there was only one thing I could do to revive my faith in teen narratives. I sat down and watched The Breakfast Club. This John Hughes classic has been one of my favourite films forever but it’s been a while since I last watched it. It’s weird to watch it again in 2017 and realise that these five “kids” would still be considered fashionable if they walked into any modern high school. Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson look exactly like the kind of hipster millennials that you can’t avoid these days. Turns out the 80s vibe really isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Although, I can’t really criticise them. When rewatching this film I was struck by two things: number 1, Judd Nelson’s face is beautiful and, number 2, I would happily wear everything he was. The man’s got style. And, to be honest, I’d happily be Ally Sheedy too… well pre-makeover Ally Sheedy anyway. When I was younger I was obsessed with Molly Ringwald but, as I grew up, I realised I’m less Molly Ringwald and more Ally Sheedy. Which is fine with me. Well, as long as I can make different food choices.

The premise of The Breakfast Club is a simple one: five students sit through detention on a Saturday. These five are all wildly different and intend to remain so. There is the jock (Emilio Estevez), the Prom Queen  (Molly Ringwald), the geek (Anthony Michael Hall), the freak (Ally Sheedy) and the criminal (Judd Nelson). They spend their time arguing, laughing, and, ultimately, learning about themselves. It may be light on real action but it’s super heavy on character and development. Being a John Hughes movie, it actually feels as though you’re watching teenagers despite the fact that they all look like 20-somethings. He has a way of capturing the teenage voice and culture in way that feels natural. It’s something that not many other filmmakers have ever managed to achieve. A lot of teen movies and novels these days rely too heavily on stuffing their stories with slang to seem realistic but it only ends up making dated almost instantaneously. Hughes’ films have a universal and timeless appeal that means watching them in 2017 will appeal to teenagers in much the same way that it did in 1985.

That’s not to say that The Breakfast Club is the perfect film. The script was written by Hughes in about 2 weeks and, if we’re honest, it kind of shows. It’s an often clumsy mess that flies all over the place and overuses stereotypes that have plagued teen movies since the beginning of teen movies. Each of the members of detention are the archetypal teens who have all of the cliched problems you’d expect them too. Then there’s the fact that the adult figures are so underdeveloped. The two, a vicious teacher and a laboured janitor, that show up in person are forgettable and one-dimensional. The moment where they bond in the basement is unnecessary and feels super out of place. It’s best just to let it go by without a second thought.

Watching it with as objective an eye as I can possibly muster, The Breakfast Club is particularly dicey. It’s often unintentionally funny, overindulgent, confused with tone and pacing, and, generally, just confused. There can be no denying that Hughes has made better, funnier, and more emotional films than this. However, this is the one that has become the icon. It made Simple Minds a much bigger deal than they really deserved and has meant that, one day, I want to walk slowly across a football field with my fist in the air. Despite all of the potential flaws this film may have, it has a universal appeal and charm. The intimate setting means you really get to grips with the characters and the relationships. This is the kind of film that will appeal to anyone who has ever gone through puberty and it will continually appeal to them. Yes, it’s a bit par for the course but every time I watch this I get the same familiar feeling. It’s hard not to fall in love with this film.

So, I accept the fact that this film isn’t the greatest you’ll ever see. But I think you’re crazy to just dismiss it out of hand. You see it as you want to see it – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what you need to find out is that this film is perfect. Does than answer your question?

TBT – Mr Mom (1983)

comedy, John Hughes, Michael Keaton, TBT

Unfortunately, I’ve managed to contract the plague this week and have spent much of my day off feeling like shit and wallowing in self pity. Unable to focus on anything greater than trawling through Netflix looking for TBT ideas, I stumbled across some classic 1980s Michael Keaton. It should be well documented by now that I have a great love of Mr Keaton; particularly during the 80s. You know, when he was a young comic actor making slapstick comedies rather than depressing us with his attempts at feel-good Christmas films. The will 80s always be one of my favourite eras of cinema, despite the fact that most things look horribly dated by this point. This is mostly thanks to the time spent in my teenage years watching every John Hughes film I could and wishing I was Ally Sheedy. So it seems only natural that I’d love a film that combines the writing prowess of Hughes and the comic timing of Keaton. Right?

Mr Mom is one of those films that really hasn’t stood the test of time. It stands out against the kind of film that John Hughes has become so well known for. It is the kind of shitty half-baked concept you’d expect to see in a run-of-the-mill sitcom: man gets laid off from his job and is forced to stay at home with the kids whilst his wife returns to work in his place. All those classic gender stereotypes are present and correct as Jack Butler (Keaton) must get his head around laundry, shopping and housekeeping. Oh, men!

All the while his wife, Caroline (Terri Garr) must head to the cutthroat world of advertising with little expertise and no real qualifications for the job. All it takes for her to succeed and get an instant promotion is a pretty face and a housewife’s knowledge of the world. If jobs were that easy to get in the 80s I don’t see what everyone was always fucking whining about.

Of course, despite it’s overplayed and dreary concept, there could have been a lot of comic potential, especially with a leading man such as Keaton, in Mr Mom‘s set-up. Instead of all the naturally funny home-based capers that could have be relied on to raise a smile, Hughes instead goes down the zany route. We have a group of repair men and women who turn up at various points, Jack’s amorous neighbour, Caroline’s lusty boss, a psycho vacuum cleaner and the househusband’s soap opera fantasies. It just seems too desperate to bring the funny.

There is too much going on that distracts from Keaton himself. Despite a host of problems, Keaton’s performance is strong and, had he been given stronger material, this could have been another 1980s comedy classic. Instead, the script just clutches at straws and relies on big visual gags or wacky throwaway gags that go nowhere in particular.

There are plenty of things to enjoy about Mr Mom but, when you consider who wrote it, there can be no denying that it could have been better. There are some good performances but the material is just kind of underwhelming. In terms of entertainment it’s fine but nothing to get worked up about. According to its Wikipedia page, Mr Mom is now considered one of the best films of 1983. Well, if that’s the case, 1983 was obviously a fucking shitty year for film.