Four high school students are dropped off at school. A fifth walks. No one else is around. The school looks like a ghost town. They make their way to the library. Although they share one room, they are worlds apart. There is a “princess.” A brain. An athlete. A basket case. And and criminal. They each are serving a “sentence” by giving up a Saturday afternoon, forced to stay together, without talking (at least, they’re not supposed to). Their assignment while they ponder away the afternoon? To write an essay about who they perceive themselves to be.
ARE YOU PART OF “THE CLUB”
If you are a child of the 80s as I am, you’ll recognize the scenario above as the classic opening to that great teen angst film, “The Breakfast Club.” I remember coming out of that film and feeling like I was ready to take on the world. And who could forget that drum base beat intro into the Simple Minds song “Don’t You Forget About Me” that perfectly coincided with the end of the movie. “The Breakfast Club” is one of those movies you can watch over and over and never get sick of it. It takes you back to a time that was both simple, yet complicated. Terrible, yet amazing.
The paradox of high school life was something that writer/director John Hughes was a master at capturing. His other teen angst films are equally classic and memorable. “Sixteen Candles.” “Pretty in Pink.” “Weird Science.” And let us not forget “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” (He was also the writer and/or director of the “Vacation” movies, “Uncle Buck,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” the “Home Alone” movies, and “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.”) For someone who was in his mid-thirties at the time, John Hughes knew how to connect with the high school mind. Those of us who had the opportunity to see his films when they first came out in the theater are part of a special “club,” a generation that was defined so acutely by its music, fashion, and films. And John was a director who knew how to weave all three into cinematic gold.
John’s films are still great today because they are about the human spirit, specifically the teen spirit. The issues dealt with by Clair, Andrew, Brian, Allison, and Bender (the aforementioned princess, athlete, brain, basket case, and criminal), are the same issues kids deal with today. Loneliness. Competition. Peer pressure. That sense of not fitting in. But what is so special about TBC was that although it starts with five stereotypes, it doesn’t end that way. As is the case in real life, we find depth to the characters. A princess who secretly loathes being so popular. A jock who wants his knee to blow. A basket case who is surprisingly sharp and witty. A brain as tortured by his drive to get all “As” as the jock is to win all his matches. And a “criminal” who has a soft side.
And the kicker is this: we find in the movie, as we find in real life, that in some small way, we ALL are a princess, an athlete, a brain, a basket case, and a criminal. For that, we are ALL are part of the same “club.”
John was great a putting in special moments that really grabbed you emotionally. The shot at the end of “Sixteen Candles” when Sam sees that Jake Ryan has come to pick her up (what teen girl didn’t absolutely LOVE that scene). The dance scene in “The Breakfast Club.” The lip sync performance by Jon Cryer’s “Duckie” in “Pretty in Pink.” And the parade scene in “Ferris Bueller” (to this day it’s my dream to dance on a float while singing “Twist and Shout”).
LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST
John Hugues died last Thursday, August 6, of a massive heart attack while walking in Manhattan. I couldn’t help but think of the one month to live challenge I’ve been currently reading. You never know when your time may come. So live life to the fullest…now. It’s safe to say that John lived a dream. He was an extremely prolific filmmaker who gave us classic stories that transcend generations. Rest in peace John.