The Breakfast Club Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review
Saturday, March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois. Seven a.m. Detention.
In THE BREAKFAST CLUB, five students–all serving time for one reason or another–are each tasked to write an essay about who they think they are, as demanded by a bull with horns.
The bull: assistant principal Vernon (Paul Gleason, TRADING PLACES). The students: honor student Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall, SIXTEEN CANDLES), jock Andrew Clarke (Emilio Estevez, REPO MAN), loner Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy, WARGAMES), priss Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald, also SIXTEEN CANDLES) and delinquent John Bender (Judd Nelson, MAKING THE GRADE). It’s an immediate game of Spot the Difference.
As the day progresses and the essays go unwritten, the group will find out more than they expected, both about themselves and their classmates. This allows screenwriter and director John Hughes to ask questions teeangers will want asked, to raise themes that its subject and desired audience may have been striving for. THE BREAKFAST CLUB wants to say that there is much more to these people than what their surface suggests–the jock can cry, the quiet one can scream, the prude can give a hickey–but these parts don’t equal the whole.
The lessons here don’t stick like the movie’s legacy suggests. Will these people give a nod in the hallway on Monday, or defend one another if their secured friends are teasing them? It’s nice to think so, but chances are, as Bender says, they’ll just bury their heads in the sand. Anything they appear to have learned from their detention session means little–except, maybe, that the quintet can choreograph an impromptu dance. (Even the character names don’t follow through: three offer statements–Brian is an anagram of “brain,” Bender suggests recklessness, Standish tells off “standoffishness”–while the other two offer no commentary.)
By the time the afternoon ends, not long after their breakthrough last act crying session in the back of the library, the viewer knows that these people are, in a way, betraying the depths of their identities. In the end, their “essay” to Vernon admits that each is nothing more than their stereotype: “a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess and a criminal.” This isn’t a moment of owning who you are, it’s an instance of betraying your needs. Nothing of full substance has been accomplished that afternoon–the smart kid is made to write the essay, the delinquent pulls another fast one on the authority, the athlete still plans to go to the big party. Bender may raise his fist at the end, but it feels less about empowerment and self-realization than getting some tail at school.
There are some commendable attempts here, and some genuine moments of humanity that few coming-of-age movies have matched, like the initial library sequence, where the viewer is introduced to the students and their nemesis is one of Hughes’ finest, best-scripted moments. How they interact with themselves, each other and their surroundings is a stroke of borderline brilliance in character development. That the viewer knows the odds of this development extending past Saturday afternoon are slim only hurts what the movie could have truly accomplished.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from the 35 mm original camera negative.”
THE BREAKFAST CLUB looks excellent in this transfer, with healthy colors, fine details and an overall nice picture that will please fans.
Audio: English Mono; English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35 mm DME (dialogue, music, and effects) track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX.”
Dialogue is clean and the music (including Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” and Karla DeVito’s “We Are Not Alone”) comes through crisply.
Audio commentary featuring actors Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson: This 2008 commentary is obviously missing some key players, but the pair still offer a highly listenable track that fans will enjoy.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (51:39): Collected here is an extensive amount of scenes cut from the 150-minute rough cut of THE BREAKFAST CLUB. Although low in quality, this selection of discarded scenes is a welcome addition.
Sincerely Yours (51:00): This 2008 documentary features cast members Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and John Kapelos, as well as costume designer Marilyn Vance, filmmakers Amy Heckerling and Michael Lehmann, writer Diablo Cody and journalist Hank Stuever.
Cast and Crew: Housed here are interviews with Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy (18:38), Judd Nelson (12:36), Ally Sheedy (15:23), instructor Irene Brafstein (8:58) and Paul Gleason (11:09). The Ringwald and Sheedy pair is from 2017, while the others are from 1984.
John Hughes: Housed here are two audio interviews with Hughes: American Film Institute, 1985 (47:21), in which he discusses the story, characters and cast, and Sound Opinions, 1999 (16:05), where music is the focus.
Electronic Press Kit (23:49): There are seven inclusions here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Ensemble Profile,” “John Hughes Profile,” “Dede Allen Profile,” “‘Youth Picture’,” “‘Roller-Coaster’,” “Featurette” and “Trailer.”
Today (9:42): This excerpt from a 1985 episode of NBC’s Today features interviews with the cast conducted by Jane Pauley.
Describe the Ruckus (12:13): This new video essay features Judd Nelson reading Hughes’ production notes.
This American Life (15:13): In this 2014 episode of the radio series, Ira Glass interviews Molly Ringwald.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release: an essay by author and critic David Kamp.