Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2022 6:33 am 
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A sort-of-remake of 'The Breakfast Club' 37 years later invites unflattering comparisons

That's a long time. A lot has changed. The kids have ruder manners, the world outside is more complicated. There are cell phones - though social media isn't dealt with here. The circumstances are different so instead of a day-long punishment detention period this is a one-day makeup of an exam these six have either failed or missed for a "drama" course that the teacher turns into a therapy session where each person is, in the guise of presenting a created "character," encouraged to tell her personal innermost secret story. Ego and self-help therapy weren't central in John Hughes' day. This focus on self is not the barrier to bonding here you might expect, and the eager young actors create a good ensemble feeling. But the more unconventional conception of the situation never quite makes sense.

Besides that, even if this isn't a remake, to invite comparison with a John Hughes classic is dangerous. Hughes was the master of those eighties youth pictures whose equivalent has never arrived since. The Breakfast Club flows so naturally. The dominant bad-boy character played by Juddd Nelson is a showy creation, but a most entertaining one. Both movies are all talk, but Hughes choreographs the characters to provide constant variety and interest and adds moments of actual choreography that delight. Mostly the talk is low-keyed but it sings. The Breakfast Club is engaging, moving, and continually spontaneous and alive. The Class is too wrapped up in itself to think of the audience as much. Its score is obtrusive and annoying and its editing is overly busy.

Here are the new generation of kids and their teacher. Jason (Charlie Gillespie, who's 24) - long haired, muscular, open shirt, shoes off, has a lot to reveal, and underneath the bravado he's crying. Turns out he was orphaned early by a car accident, raised by his Uncle Nate (John Kapelos, who was in the cast of The Breakfast Club) who treats him like shit, he says (we learn otherwise). He's the equivalent of Judd Nelson's aggressive misfit. Jason is matched up for the class "theater" activity with Casey, the purple-haired black girl. She's played by Lyric Ross, one of the only actors not too old. Her confusion makes her the most authentic-feeling kid. Off by themselves on one of the numerous breaks, Jason and Casey bond for real and plan on a date as the film ends. Before that a long scene between Jason and his Uncle Nate, summoned to take him home, is a reconciliation where Uncle Nate turns soft and they hug. It's touching but also soppy, and too easy.

Casey's truth comes out that she has had to have an abortion. There are complications about what happened that lead to a fight among the boys. The details are confusing and seem rushed.

The teacher Miranda (veteran Debbie Gibson) is pressed to share in the group revelations with her own. She describes a traumatic childhood of being sent away by her parents into foster care. Drama became her therapy as a young adult and though she went to a famous acting school she decided on a career in teaching to use drama as therapy for others as it was for her. This imitates an unfortunate trend in modern education of making the arts and humanities self-help, as mirror rather than window.

Mr. Faulk, the grumpy school employee assigned to supervise the kids, is played by none other than Anthony Michael Hall, who was the brain, the pale, blond, innocent Brian in the original Breakfast Club, thirty-seven years older now. (Hall was also essential to Hughes' Sixteen Candles: his baby-faced immaturity was very effective.) Sadly as the sketchily written gruff adult who'd rather be at the track playing the horses Hall isn't funny (remember the famous Barry Manilow quip about his wardrobe?) or get to reveal himself in his own private scene with a janitor as his equivalent in The Breakfast Club does.

Celozzi goes for the tears, so it's no surprise that the secret of the sweet-faced, quiet Jesse (Hannah Kepple) is that she has cancer, with singing her own songs her entertaining escape. The rigid Mr. Faulk melts for Jesse and fetches a guitar from the music room so all can gather around and hear her perform. He even breaks the rules at the end and lets her go home with the guitar. Why hasn't she one? Why would he do such a thing? One wonders if her illness is a put-on, like Ally Sheedy's invented problems in the Hughes movie, and wait for the gotcha moment.

Max (Colin McCalla), the jock, is a football player, but he has a secret that might have been too daring for Emillio Estevez's wrestler letterman: it's that he's .......(fill in the blank). And he comes clean on that here - after some all-too-obvious hinting. This revelation is hardly referred to thereafter.

Michael (Michael Sebastian) is rakish and dangerous, dark, with slinky hair. - He drinks, is angry, unhappy, menacing, scary, says threatening things that are red flags for Mr. Faulk, but Miranda the teacher excuses him. This character seems to wobble. As the group gets friendlier he softens up. Is he a dangerous kid or not? (This actor, by the way, is 22.)

Allie (Juliette Celozzi), evidently a relative of the director, is third girl. Unhappy and traumatized, Allie is shy and recessive. Her dad is very rich. She's mysterious at first as is the strange Ally Sheedy character who at first says nothing in The Breakfast Club and makes strange noises and then tells a mass of lies that impress and fool the other kids. The rich part links Allie with Molly Ringwald's character, who's at first recessive but gradually transfigured by Ringwald's looks and presence. Cellozzi is personable but doesn't have quite that distinctiveness.

Complications over a pregnancy - a grittiness Breakfast Club never gets to as it never gets to race - lead to a fight and a lot of dialogue among the Class "kids." This gives them a sense of togetherness and singles out Michael and Jason, who takes a hit for Michael because he owes him one. His uncle Nate comes and then the scene between them of reconciliation is plainly tacked on, yet another feel-good aspect of this simplistic film, which lacks the humor and wit of the original Breakfast Club and is missing John Hughes' distinctive writing and ear for the youthful speech of the time. These new young actors are appealing, though some of them are patently a little too old for high school (or even college) and their characters are less defined at the outset than Hughes' by Celozzi's intent.

The Class's 12-step notion that sharing one's weaknesses in a "safe space" can be healing and lead to bonding is not without merit. It's just that this movie is patchy and uneven and feels contrived. Nicholas Celozzi, who has a relative who is a mafia don in Chicago, where this film was shot, is the author as well as director. He directed some movies as far back as the Nineties and has written other films but has declared this is a passion project for him in which he put a lot of himself. Good idea. But next time don't mess with a masterpiece, okay? In this realm John Hugues is the capo, and uou're not.

The Class, 114 mins., opens Sept. 9, 2022. It has no other history.

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