Alleged teenager whisperer John Hughes puts on his supposedly deepest work in The Breakfast Club, though the competition includes the cat poster aphorisms of Ferris Bueller and the Asian stereotypes of Sixteen Candles. One has to imagine a world where teenagers aren’t the center of the culture to buy into Hughes’ idea that they’re overlooked and underestimated, despite the film taking place twenty years after the youth revolutions of the 60’s. It’s not like The Breakfast Club is the first film to take teen emotions and social dilemmas seriously, but it might be the film with the longest reach. If that’s the standard, however, The Breakfast Club fails by its own measure of success. Stripped of its larger weight, Hughes gets some excellent performances out of his Brat Pack actors and, when he can pump his brakes, scripts lived-in moments that sculpt the characters from archetypes into rounded human beings. The Breakfast Club is a strong showcase for its talent, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthy of its reputation as some kind of Rosetta Stone into American adolescence.
In his 2006 iconic phenomenon, Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat came from the backwards land of Kazakhstan to experience the joys of America, a place with hospitable people who often say horrible things. Americans, boorish and racist and consumed with empty courtesy though they may be, at least didn’t stage offensive parades and give wide swaths of their population over to anti-Semitic conspiracy mongering. Thirteen years later, Borat returns to the US to attend anti-COVID-lockdown gatherings and hangs out with Qanon adherents who believe the world’s most powerful liberals distill the blood of children for precious hormones. In Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, America has turned into something like Cohen’s imagined Kazakhstan, except no one from the South Carolina tourism department is going to sue him for defamation. Cohen justifies his sequel by simply observing how strange and poisonous America has become, and then justifies it again by gaining a worthy sidekick. It takes more than one Kazakh to satirize America in 2020.
A new level of Jewish cringe comedy is reached in Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby. Seligman’s feature debut contains enough toe-curling awkwardness to make Larry David sit up and take notice, all contained within a party that’s not as extreme as the events of Darren Aronofsky’s mother! but reminiscent nonetheless. Adapted from a short, Shiva Baby piles tension and complication on its protagonist, a young woman of little accomplishment who’s confronted with judgmental relatives and the thorny untangling of her sexual escapades. Seligman meticulously lays out scenario after scenario to bedevil her lead, and the result is a tremendously watchable film even if it must occasionally be seen through hands over eyes.
Random projects from the MMC Universe.