Popular filmmaker John Hughes passed away today at age 59 from a heart attack while out for a morning stroll. Hughes had been absent from the film industry for a decade or more, but for a short span in the 80s, he was the king of teen films. He managed to capture a youth culture, despite being in his 30s, as if he had intimate knowledge of everything the average teen was going through in that period. Most of his successes came when I was too young to even know what a movie was, and most of my early exposure to them came through repetitive airings on TV.
Of his most famous works, 2 in particular stand out. There’s much debate over which of his films are good and which aren’t as worthwhile. I for one can’t stand Weird Science, don’t really care for Pretty in Pink, and while I appreciate Sixteen Candles, it’s never been one of my favorites. I do, however, love The Breakfast Club. It’s a fairly timeless teenage story, that can be transplanted to any generation that the viewer identifies with. We all knew brains, athletes, criminals, princesses, and basketcases when we were in school. The Breakfast Club spoke about identity, both what we perceive our own identity to be, and how we view others’. It’s a rare movie where nothing really happens, but at the end we feel like a lot was accomplished. It slowly builds up and reveals our characters first through how their fellow detainees see them, then revealing how they see themselves, and finally breaking down those barriers of perspective to let each find out who they truly are and who each other are. All this is done almost entirely with masterfully written dialogue, really making the film feel like My Detention with Andre. The Breakfast Club has come to represent for me the sort of people I want to surround myself with, that an eclectic group of friends, with differing views and attitudes, is what makes life interesting and fulfilling. It can’t be a coincidence that I’ve been a member of two completely separate groups that called themselves (and were called by others) “The Breakfast Club”. In my high school youth group at my church, my class was known as such, due to the vast spectrum of styles and attitudes represented. We had a prep, a hippie, a genius, a dork, a geek, a loner, and a… well not a criminal, but maybe a troublemaker. Now my Sunday school class is known as “The Breakfast Club”, mainly because we have food every Sunday, but I think the name still fits. We’re a group that finds ourselves at the same general crossroads on life’s journey, but coming from many different directions. It’s a wonderful group, and I can’t help but feel that the name is a good omen of the years to come.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from The Breakfast Club is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. As inwardly directed, and existential as TBC is, Ferris Bueller is entirely outward and forward looking. It takes all of our hopes and dreams and lays them out on the table, in one youth’s attempt to have the greatest day ever. It’s so easy to watch, regardless of your age, and to feel that if only you were with Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane, that you would be having the best day of your life. It takes their dreams and makes us identify with them so well, that they become our dreams, and seeing those dreams realized helps us to feel as fulfilled as if we ourselves were living out our own. It all culminates in one triumphant scene, and what I have always considered to be one of the greatest moments ever captured on film. It’s so over the top but at the same time so real, to see a Chicago street flooded with people, all singing at the top of their lungs, not acting for a movie, but simply enjoying life. It’s reality, not some Hollywood trick, or tons of paid extras. It makes it so much more genuine, and in that way, more fantastic. As Ferris sings and dances on that float, for no other reason than to show his friends how wonderful life can be, and for the pure joy of it, we know what it is to be free, and to be happy.