Breakfast Club, The (1985)
★★★ / ★★★★
Five high school students who personify a geek (Anthony Michael Hall), a princess (Molly Ringwald), a jock (Emilio Estevez), a basket case (Ally Sheedy) and a criminal (Judd Nelson) spent a Saturday in detention under the eyes of a begrudged principal (Paul Gleason). The picture’s argument was the fact that although we label ourselves (or others label us) to be in a specific category in the high school social strata, we can relate with each of the five characters because we share one commonality: in high school, all of us are just hoping to get by and waiting for our lives to actually begin. The film was astute in observing the teenagers while they interacted with each other and when they were on their own. Even if the characters were not saying anything or if they were just on the background, I was able to read them and I thought of things that they might have been thinking at the time. Having been released in era where typical teen flicks were abound, “The Breakfast Club” almost immediately gained a cult following because of its honesty, right amount of cheesiness, and cathartic quality. My favorite scene was toward the end when the five were in a circle and decided to share why they were sent to detention. I liked the fact that it wasn’t a typical “sharing time” where everybody was solemn and serious all the time. They were actually able to make jokes toward and around each other in between discussing their issues. It made me think of me and my friends when would do the same thing. Out of the five, I could relate to Hall’s character the most (and a bit of Ringwald’s because of her slight conceitedness). It made me think of the way I was in high school concerning my penchant (or perhaps even obsession) for getting straight A’s. It got to the point where getting straight A’s was something that I expected of myself instead of something that I had to strive for. I remember being so hard on myself for making small mistakes when, looking back on it, I didn’t really need to. Now that I’m older, I just think of grades as letters on a piece of paper and nothing more. They don’t define us and they certainly don’t dictate what we can offer the world. The difference between me and Hall’s character was my parents did not pressure me into getting the perfect grade point average. However, I can just imagine how it must have been like for other students who were not so lucky–those that jumped off buildings in college because they felt a need to have the “perfect academic record” to have a “secure future.” Written and directed by the legendary John Hughes, I thought he did a wonderful job capturing the essence of teenagers despite their place in the high school hierarchy.
St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
★ / ★★★★
A group of friends (Mare Winningham, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez) who recently graduated from Georgetown University believed they would be forces to be reckoned with out in the real world but they quickly found out that life was hard and they were not going to be friends forever. I cannot begin to describe how much I disliked this film but I will surely try my best. The characters in this movie has got to be one of the whiniest, most self-absorbed, and most idiotic people I had the displeasure spending time with. It’s not the fact that they constantly made mistakes after graduation. I love it when characters go through trials and their respective cores are challenged. It’s just the way the script made each character an annoying caricature with no sense of direction. The most irksome was perhaps Estevez’ character as a stalker who we were supposed to believe was in love with somoene four years older than him. Like the others, he had a one-track mind and there was no substance to him other than what we saw on screen. On the other side of the spectrum, the character that was somewhat likable (played by Winningham) craved for independence from her rich family. I wished the picture focused more on her because at least I had an idea about what she wanted to accomplish in life and the many elements that were against her. It was not difficult to root for her because of her inherent goodness and her proactiveness to change things around when she was not happy with a particular situation. Written and directed by Joel Schumacher, it’s a shame because “St. Elmo’s Fire” could have really made a statement about post-college life in the 1980s. Instead of looking inwards and moving outwards, it was stuck in the character’s inner demons and it did not give them room to grow or learn something meaningful. When it tried to move forward, it fell flat because the scenes were very disorganized and just did not make sense why characters chose certain paths. When I look at the movie as a whole, it felt like it was just a giant party where I met a lot of people but I could not remember any of their names by the end of the night because all of them failed to strike a chord. In the end, I wondered why the characters would be friends with each other in the first place. And then it occured to me: they probably enjoyed watching each other crash and burn in order to feel better about themselves. But I had serious doubts whether the film was astute enough to arrive at such realization.