Thursday, March 27, 2014

Theory of the Perfect Movie: The Breakfast Club

Usually I post on Wednesdays, but yesterday my wifi was slow. If it took half an hour for my Facebook page to refresh, what hope could I have of my blog updating before my next birthday?

Except for my book reviews, which I carefully craft and read over several times before publishing, I like to keep my blog fairly fresh. I generally write on the day that I post so I don't have time to overthink things or revise to death.

So let's jump in, shall we?

This week word around the 'webs was that it was the 30th anniversary of the day that the detention in "The Breakfast Club" took place. Therefore, I think this is as good a time as any to introduce you all to Meredith's Theory of the Perfect Movie.

I created this theory sometime during my studies at NYU, where I graduated with a BA in -- I'm not making this up, this is a real thing, all of it -- Dramatic Literature, Theater History and Cinema Studies, with an emphasis on American movies. Basically it was for people who like stories but didn't want to be English majors (I love books but detest being told what to read, just ask my husband), and liked movies but couldn't get into Tisch School of the Arts. (Shed a tear, if you will, to my dashed dreams of being a Jewish female Spike Lee.)

For my major I had to read a lot of plays and watch a lot of movies. Not all of them -- plays or movies - were good. "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" has gone down in my personal history as my most hated movie of all time, 91 minutes of my life I will never ever get back.

I hate you.

Some movies that are considered "classics" simply don't withstand the test of time. "The Wizard of Oz" does; most early Disney films do not. If "Snow White" were released today, I doubt it would do well at the box office. Today's audience just doesn't have the stomach for such a passive heroine, nor for a storyline that involves the hero and heroine falling in love after he kisses her out of a coma.

Not so much, no.

Which brings me to my theory. It's quite simple, really: sometimes, every so often, a movie comes along that is just plain perfect. The dialogue is believable; the acting is well-crafted; the cinematography is subtle but engaging; the music, direction, story, everything comes together in perfect unity and harmony.

People have movies that they love, that speak to them personally and for better or worse gets under their skin in some ways. For me, "Gravity" was more an active physical experience than a passive moviegoing one. But not everyone loves "Gravity," and I don't think it's perfect.

I think "The Breakfast Club" is perfect, though. You'll find few people who don't like that movie. Here's why.

"TBC" is storytelling boiled down to its most essential parts. There's no intellectual trickery going on here; no one feels stupid after watching "TBC." There's no bait-and-switch "surprise" ending. Yet it's not a stupid movie. It's subtle and shifting and reveals itself bit by bit with every line and every cut and scene change.

It also takes place entirely in one location. No sweeping vistas, no helicopter shots, no CGI, no pyrotechnics.

The story is a little predictable -- the love connections are entirely predictable -- but it works. It starts off categorizing the characters into single, two-dimensional roles, and ends with the revelation that they are deeper than that. At its heart, "TBC" lets audiences feel good about themselves because it helps us realize we, too, are more than our labels. We, too, are capable of being more than what people think we should be.

Judd Nelson: Fashion Icon

And the music is, of course, one of the best parts of the movie.

A familiar story told in the most straightforward way possible and yet it's anything but simple. It's what we writers strive for every day. It's what I work so hard to do with my own writing. No bells and whistles, nothing superfluous. Just a damn good story, told well.

Here's one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies.

P.S. For half a semester in high school I modeled my personal style after John Bender. It was the early 90s and grunge was all the rage, so despite living in Miami I somehow pulled off wearing sweatpants and flannel shirts to school every day.

What do you consider a perfect movie? Or a perfect book?

1 comment:

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed the music from TBC. I used to have the soundtrack (it went away along with my tapes) and listened to it all the time. I was also a fan of Moliere (primarily because I saw myself as a Misanthrope).

    Hm. Perfect. I’d like to say that something perfect has to have a temporal aspect to it: certain qualities, at the right time. TBC was pretty perfect to me at the time. There are books and movies that I’ve really, really loved, then seen again and realized that it was at least partially contextual.

    And you could do worse than patterning yourself after Bender – I think I was ½ Hall, ½ Sheedy.