Ugh. So awful. I understand that the overarching message of this movie is that stereotypes are merely that: once you get close enough to someone, you see how traits of yourself manifest in them and traits of them manifest in you. Well, how clever of these teen anarchists to figure that out despite the punishing dictatorship of a dead-hearted adult.
To use a similar argument reserved for race movies that try too hard, "The Breakfast Club" reaffirms the very stereotypes it tries to break. After some angry dancing and herbal refreshment, the Princess prettifies the Basket Case to look like just another mean girl drone - the outer beauty makeover of which was the only way to get the Athlete's attention. The Brain ends up doing all the essay work required of the denizens of detention because he's the most capable, the least likely to gripe, and the most asexual by virtue of his intellect, of course. And most awful of all in my estimation, the bitter, Albee-esque vitriol between the Princess and the Criminal is all due to love/hate sexual tension? Add "Slumming It" on her bucket list and "Deflowering the Prim Prom Queen" on his because I see no other reason why Claire and Bender can stand to be near each other.
The last "group therapy" session doesn't even hint at any romantic intrigue, so why throw it in? The gravitas cultivated by the club finally revealing something true about themselves is good enough; they needn't have paired off on their Ark of Happy Hollywood Endings to get across the message of accepting people for their differences. Some revelations are low stakes while all conclusions ring artificial as hell. Polite yet volatile Andrew broaches the staggering pressure he faces from being Alpha Dog in a brilliant long monologue, but he still gets a girl in the end. Smart yet meek Brian tearfully divulges his thoughts of suicide, only to reveal that he had brought a flare gun to school, not the vague "a gun" which would lead his audience to a certain sympathetic conclusion. Perceptive but alienating Allison admits that she chose detention because she had nothing better to do, but I recall a parent/guardian dropping her off at school and what negligent parent would even deign to do that?
My favorite, prissy but sensitive Claire, speaks the most truth about high school cliques and how the quintet probably won't be friends on Monday. I don't find her conceited as Brian accuses her to be; I find her realistic, and Molly Ringwald's everygirl magnetism doesn't overplay or typify the Rich Bitch. She recognizes how similar they all are, which brings me to everyone's seeming favorite but my least: Bender, who immediately and irrevocably shuts down any comparison between her and himself.
I normally take no stock in how much I "like" a character. Even if somebody is a repulsive jerk, I can still appreciate the characterization as long as they're interesting and developed. I found myself HATING John Bender. He is a repulsive jerk for the sake of it. He bows to no authority, but he lacks accountability for himself. He is startlingly and unjustifiably cruel, crude, and crass to Claire and everyone else. His few moments of humanity - parroting his abusive dad and taking the fall for the group wandering outside the library - are brief and baseless, respectively, thus inconsequential. His own demons and criminal past are not further explored, and his reason for acting the hero isn't made apparent, so he is merely a flat antagonist, a paper badass who spouts quotable badassery.
The detention letter that bookends this overrated Hughes joint also sticks in my craw. The Brain states, "But we think you're crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are." I, as well as the group, interpret this as an earnest question; they don't take umbrage at the possible interpretation of the question as, "Who the hell do you think you are?" so IS the essay so crazy? Isn't the whole catharsis of the movie based on the Breakfast Club figuring out who they really are? Doesn't the punishment and existential question bring them closer together (albeit in a superficial way)? Once again, they can certainly defy authority, but they oughta show accountability too. I'm not suggesting that Principal Vernon thought up this assignment expressly to teach them this valuable lesson, nor do I fully sympathize with this disillusioned teacher turned cantankerous administrator, but I can't help thinking, "Kids these days just don't understand."