Breakfast Club (1985): In this movie, John Hughes gets it right. Five high school students in a wealthy Chicago suburb are forced to serve detention in the school library on a Saturday. Like many other John Hughes movies, this movie portrays the stereotypes associated with teenagers in the 1980s. Unlike other John Hughes movies, the students address and challenge these stereotypes. All five of these students could have attended my high school, and the assistant principal and custodian would also have blended into the scene. When I want to remember what high school was really like, this is one of the two movies I choose to watch.
But, before I go on, I do have one comment. John Bender is being punished for pulling the fire alarm. Andrew assaulted a classmate in the locker room. Brian had a flare gun go off in his locker. (He was planning to kill himself because he got an F in shop class.) Claire ditched school to go shopping. Allison says that she came only because she had nothing better to do, but in another scene she says she is a compulsive liar. What do you think is her true story? Might there be a clue in the opening credits?
St. Elmo’s Fire (1985): This movie also portrays college graduates, although in this case the characters are in the autumn right after their graduation from Georgetown University, each trying to find his or her own way in the post-college professional world. All seven of them are spoiled and whiny, yet for all that their problems are real and their efforts to handle their problems are real.
I have one question: What career is Leslie (Ally Sheedy) pursuing? It’s important that she succeed at her career before she marries Alex, but just what is she doing? Architecture? Interior design? Some key scene or dialogue must have been cut from the movie.
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986): This is a time-travel movie with much more depth and subtlety than the Back to the Future franchise. At her twenty-fifth high school reunion, Peggy Sue is somehow swept back into her high school self, though possessing all the memories and emotions of her adult life. Some memories she is glad to relive, others frighten or distress her, and she discovers some things about her life and surroundings she had not noticed as a high school student. Kathleen Turner plays the complex Peggy Sue character convincingly, her once and future husband is played equally well by Nicholas Cage, and much of the rest of the cast also succeeds, including a young Jim Carrey.
Lucas (1986): This is the other movie I watch when I want to remember what high school was really like. The title character is a nerd, scientifically brilliant, but the object of ridicule from most of the athletes in the student body. He befriends a new girl in town, but soon she is on the cheerleading squad and dating a football player. Lucas tries to reinvent himself to gain her attention. In the near future, I will write a lengthy, spoiler-filled, review of this movie. Suffice it to say that many scenes from this movie put me right back in high school again, for better or for worse.
Dead Poets Society (1989): I attended twelve years of public school before going off to college, so I cannot exactly relate to the rich young men in an exclusive east-coast boarding school designed to prepare them for success in college and in their careers. In fact, I relate much more to the teacher, played by Robin Williams, who challenges the students to think for themselves in an environment that presses them to conform and to stifle individuality. More than Aladdin or Mrs. Doubtfire, this is the movie that comes to mind when I think of Robin Williams—not least because this movie also deals with the tragedy of suicide. Dead Poets Society is beautifully filmed, and the ending is as haunting as any final scene of any movie I can remember.
By the way, yesterday and today’s posts were created and posted from a computer I am still struggling to use, given this week’s update to Windows 10. J.