Movie Review: 'Class' Steps out of the Shadow of 'The Breakfast Club'
Though The Breakfast Club casts a long shadow, Class sets itself apart while honoring it's genre brethren.
Directed by Nicholas Celozzi
Written by Nicholas Celozzi
Starring Anthony Michael Hall, Debbie Gibson, John Kapelos
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Directed by John Hughes
Written by John Hughes
Starring Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, Paul Gleason
Class stars Debbie Gibson and Anthony Michael Hall in an update of the classic Breakfast Club formula that Hall is inextricably linked to. It’s the story of a detention class in a nondescript modern High School. Gibson plays Miranda, the school drama teacher in charge of the latest detention group. She’s seconded by the hardass School Guidance Counselor, Mr. Faulk (Hall). In Faulk, Hall is playing a role similar to that of Paul Gleason’s far more broad caricature of a guidance counselor in the John Hughes classic.
I say that Gibson and Hall are the stars but they are really parts of an ensemble and since this is a movie about kids, high school, and detention, it’s the students who are center stage for the movie. Naturally, the kids fall into types, the stoner, the jock, the popular girl, the outcast and so on. There are a couple gender flips and the spectrum of sexual identities are in play, but much like The Breakfast Club, the point of having character types is to subvert those types and break through to the real person beneath.
With The Breakfast Club very much as a guide, Class introduces our group of types. Lyric Ross plays Casey, Charlie Gillespie is Jason, Michael Sebastian plays Michael, Hanna Kepple is Jesse, Colin McCalla is Max, and Juliette Celozzi is Allie. Right now, I imagine you expected me to tell you who is which type of character but I am not going to do that. I want you to see Class for yourself and discover the assigned types and the clever ways the types and your expectations are subverted.
The lesson intended by both The Breakfast Club and Class is about learning about people and getting past who you think someone is. It’s a utopian vision, for sure, in terms of a typical high school social class. For instance, no one truly believed that anyone was going to hang out with Hall’s Brian from The Breakfast Club, despite the transformative experience of their morning together, but there was hope that his life might be made less miserable by people who might not torment him anymore.
Class is actually slightly more optimistic about the future of its characters. That is perhaps because their traumatic experiences related throughout the movie are a lot heavier and intense than those of the characters in The Breakfast Club. For instance, one of these characters is possibly dying from a recent cancer diagnosis, and two others are living with the suicide of a female friend who had had an abortion. So yeah, Class is carrying a little more weight than the 80’s classic.
Class is also a much more sensitive movie as it takes sexuality and how we treat sexual assault, abuse, or harassment much more seriously. Where the first film treated Bender’s harassment of Molly Ringwald’s Claire as a joke, Class makes clear that the subject of harassment is a bit of a third rail in a modern High School. That’s not to say that the characters are all woke stereotypes, one character in particular enjoys subverting any attempts at wokeness even as he is thoroughly rebuked for his edgelord approach to discourse. Woke culture and the baggage amassed by the word Woke by those who wish to diminish its meaning is not a major part of Class. Rather, the actual meaning of Woke is used to get to the point about getting to know people and learning not to be judgmental.
Am I saying that Class is a better movie than The Breakfast Club? Not necessarily. Neither film is perfect and Class has some cringeworthy moments or moments that don’t ring as true as intended. But neither film is completely ruined by their flaws. The flaws are easy to acknowledge and to dismiss because, like The Breakfast Club, the whole of Class is stronger than the parts.
Both films are also quite entertaining and emotionally compelling. The characters are sympathetic and the message about really getting to know each other is one that is good to repeat for every generation. Class is a movie specifically about creating a bond of shared experience, of generating empathy among a diverse group of young people and within those of us watching the movie. The Breakfast Club has a similar aim, with a slightly less seriousness of intent.
Before I wrap this up, I want to highlight the performance of Debbie Gibson and one really, genuinely wonderful scene not involving Gibson. Gibson is wonderful as a teacher who tries desperately to bridge the gap between being an adult authority figure and someone who can be friends with her student. It’s a poignant and slightly misguided aim and one that Gibson brings earnestly to the screen. I loved that the movie gives her a subplot that pays off at the end in a genuinely emotional moment. You might view Gibson as a figure of ironic nostalgia, but Gibson herself and as an actress is so genuine that your opinion of her persona won’t matter by the end of Class.
The scene I want to highlight involves well known comic character actor John Kapelos. Playing the stepfather of one of the detention kids, Kapelos delivers a moment of heartwrenching poignance late in the film. It’s a magnificent scene that faints one way and goes a completely different and emotionally truthful direction. Kapelos has always been a wonderful supporting player, he has one of those faces you always remember. It’s wonderful to see this veteran of so many movies, including The Breakfast Club, have a moment in Class to show off what he has so often effortlessly communicated in tiny supporting roles, his dramatic chops.
Class opens September 23rd in limited theatrical release. If you enjoyed this review, you can find my archive of more than 20 years of movie reviews on my blog, SeanattheMovies.Blogspot.com. Follow me on Twitter where my primary account is @podcastsean and the archive twitter is @SeanatheMovies. You can also hear me talk about Class, The Breakfast Club and dozens of other movies on the Everyone’s a Critic Movie Review Podcast on your favorite podcast App.