High school and jail have this much in common; nowhere else to people regress so completely to our earliest instincts towards tribalism. Both are places where we have to be whether we want to or not. Both have rigidly controlled and mysterious rules of hierarchy and class. And both can, in the wrong situations, bring out the absolute worst in people. In the Breakfast club amazing things start to happen when these completely different characters are forced to be together serving out Saturday detention.In an odd way, the movie sort of becomes an ad hoc summit meeting, as these kids get together and hash out their problems they answer some of the most common questions from that age group. To break it down to its simplest terms they represent jocks, brains, criminals, prissy girls and the just plain crazy. We start from that premise, and instead of staying there, we move forward in our understanding of these characters. Locked in together, and given a common enemy, they start to drop some of the facades that they have built.
It would be leaving something out to not mention that it is also funny as hell, itís also gratifying to realize that the funny doesnít come at the expense of anyone. In fact it goes out of its way to not trade in the easy laughs. The one time that something funny/cruel is even mentioned it is a story being told. When the sad story is done, after they have all abandoned their desks and become an unorthodox group therapy session; the horror of the petty little abuses that add up is shown to take its toll on the both the bully and the bullied.
When I first saw it, I was amazed at how hopeful this picture made me feel. It was the first real hint that I had gotten that the ones who seemed so intent upon wounding me were walking wounded themselves.
The cast works well together, even down to the janitor, who not uncharacteristically is one of the most memorable characters. This is impressive because of all of them he has the least screen time. Carl is the only one who can make them see that they are all in the same place, when he dresses down Judd Nelsonís Bender in front of the whole group it is a cheer-worthy moment. Fittingly the reaction is given to Bender who makes it clear in his eyes that not only has a degree of respect been earned, but also a point of understanding has been reached.There are (I given to understand) those for whom High School was a pleasant experience. Nobody Iíve ever actually met, understand, nor talked to. I guess they must be the folks who write cute little letters in the alumni newsletter, and plan the ten-year reunion. For the rest of us mere mortals The Breakfast Club is a bittersweet reminder of those rare moments when we found solace in others in the hell of the public school system.