Overcoming angsty teen stereotypes 101

A review of John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club.

One sentence synopsis: Five teens get high in detention, do back-flips and cry a lot.

My rating: An army of perturbed but well dressed adolescents/10

Housekeeping: The 1985 film, directed and written by John Hughes runs for approx. 97 minutes.

“It’s a film about kids in detention who make friends” they told me. I, having never seen The Breakfast Club in my formative years, doubted the cult status of the seemingly static film. “How”, I wondered, “can teenagers discussing their home problems, be anywhere near entertaining?”. But in all honesty, I couldn’t help but like it. It wasn’t perfect, by all means, nor will it go down as one of my all time favourites, but it certainly is a watchable and satisfying cinematic work.

Simple Minds’ “Don’t you forget about me”, which plays at the beginning and end of the film, instantly draws the audience into the quintessentially 80s atmosphere. I barely knew the song previous to watching the film, and yet somehow I was singing along to the glorious “hey hey hey hey” bit regardless.

The direction of the film was nothing to write home about, it was seamless and unnoticeable, classic Hollywood continuity editing. The characters however, somehow managed to make the angsty teen stereotypes likable. Yes, I know that that was the entire point of the film, but I had doubted whether it would be executed as well as it was. I was instantly drawn to Andrew (Emilio Estevez) with his rogue attitude and the profusely ripped denim outfit. However, from the moment in which the other four main characters defend Andrew after he removes a screw from the door, I was willing them all on to bond as a group. Watching the five of them pit themselves against their teacher, Bender, is immensely satisfying.

Yes, the “running through the corridors to avoid teach” scene was a bit Scooby-doo. And everyone getting high and laughing a lot was a cheesy as hell (and I don’t know anyone who can cartwheel and somersault after smoking a joint). However, it was the 80s so I shall let it slide and regard these minor drawbacks as imperfect charm instead.

Although I wouldn’t consider the stories of each character as necessarily heart warming, delving deeper into the stereotypes portrayed in American teen films was certainly an interesting concept and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the three dimensionality of the characters. The question of whether the five can be friends in normal school life was interesting, and allowed the audience to think on once the film had finished about whether the characters (should you be of the belief that characters keep living once the film is over) would truly be friends after their detention together.

Allison (Ally Sheedy) was by far, in my opinion, the most entertaining and complex character. Sheedy’s Allison barely speaks or makes any kind of noise during the first half of the film, and yet she is instantly likable. The shot of her masterfully drawing a beautiful landscape before snowing dandruff all over it in glee, is one of the comically charming shots that make Breakfast Club the classic that it is. However, one gripe that I have, was the need to make over Allison at the end of the film. The entire point of the film is that we should learn to accept each of the characters for who they are underneath their prototypical exterior. Allison, as the “basket case” is revealed to be a funny and deeply intelligent woman and, thusly, the other characters should love her for these attributes. Yet it is not until she is made over by Claire and made “pretty” that the other male characters notice her.

Ultimately, although in places it is cheesy and obvious, these things don’t necessarily draw away from the entertaining aspects of the film. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so quick to judge in the future (but I probably will).

Bill Murray on a Boat?!

A review of Wes Anderson’s charming and colourful The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

One-sentence Synopsis: Hansel, Galadriel and Peter from Ghostbusters find a shark.

My Rating: a million crayon ponyfish (i.e. wonderful)

I feel that it’s only right if my first review for this blog covers one of my favourite films (yes I know it’s not the film in the title of the blog, but Life Aquatic is much more difficult to make a pun out of). I am acutely aware that this review will be completely biased, Anderson being my favourite director, however I am a strong believer in passion being a strong persuasive force.

First, some housekeeping. The film, released in 2004 and running at approx. 119 minutes was written by Noah Baumbach, of The Squid and the Whale notoriety and director Wes Anderson. If my one sentence synopsis wasn’t clear enough, the film features Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), his maybe-possibly son Ned (Owen Wilson) and their crew, on their hunt to find the elusive Jaguar Shark (and as a shark enthusiast, I can only dream that one day this shark will spontaneously burst into existence).

In my opinion, this film is beautiful. Anderson’s usual pastel colour scheme, offset by the bright red of the Steve Zissou merchandise seen throughout the film, in addition to the magnificent rainbow stop motion a la the wonderful Henry Selick make this film an absolute must for any lovers of visual spectacle.

And the majestic aspects of the film do not cease there (thank goodness or this would have been an extremely brief review and a poor excuse for a favourite film). Bill Murray is wonderful as Steve and perfectly captures the tumultuous battle between love and dispassion raging within the ageing mariner. Similarly, Owen Wilson is utterly charming as Ned and Anjelica Houston embodies the bitterness of ex-wife Eleanor.

Anderson’s striking and unique cinematographic style features in abundance during the film. One key moment for me is a lovely tracking shot of each of the different rooms aboard the boat , a beautiful insight into the world of the crew and the differing personalities onboard. The close-up of the crayon ponyfish, lasting only a few seconds is another pause-worthy moment (and if you’re anything like me, there are A LOT of pause worthy moments in Anderson’s filmography).

In terms of plot, the film certainly delivers. Admittedly, there are points where the exposition is understandably perhaps too much for some, however between a monster shark, pirates, pregnancy, romance, glowing jellyfish and a three legged dog named Cody, what more could you want?