TIFF 2018: Five things you missed at The Breakfast Club live reading

At past TIFFs, Jason Reitman has put on live reads of American Beauty, Boogie Nights and the Princess Bride. For this year’s iteration, the writer’director – whose new film, The Front Runner, premiered on Saturday – selected John Hughes’ teen classic The Breakfast Club, casting Jesse Eisenberg as “the criminal” John Bender, Christina Hendricks as “the princess” Claire, Aaron Paul as “the athlete” Andy, Bel Powley as “the basket case” Allison, and Steve Zissis as “the brain” Brian. Rounding out the cast was Richard E. Grant as vice principal Mr. Vernon and Robert Wuhl as the janitor, Carl.

At a packed Ryerson Theatre (the ticket holders line snaked down Church and along Gould), the audience was electric, cheering during iconic scenes, like when Allison prepares and then eats a Pixie sugar dust white bread sandwich or when Claire puts on lipstick using her cleavage.

Here are five things you missed.

1. Jesse Eisenberg as a surprisingly well-cast Bender

When Reitman first announced that Eisenberg (who is at TIFF for The Hummingbird Project) would be playing anti-hero Bender, it felt like an odd casting choice. After all, Eisenberg is best known for playing awkward, romantically-challenged nerd types. Yet during the live read, he perfectly tapped into the cruel, arrogant nature of Bender. While Judd Nelson’s original Bender was physically menacing, Eisenberg’s fast-talking sardonic take-downs towards Claire felt just as malicious.

2. Bel Powey eating a Cap’n Crunch white bread sandwich

It’s easy to forget how little Allison actually says in the movie until you go to a live reading. Bel Powley (who is at TIFF for White Boy Rick) brought life to the role by re-creating the classic sandwich scene. She poured sugar sticks and Cap’n Crunch onto white bread, smushed it all together, and then took a big bite. Riotous cheers from the audience ensued.

3. Christina Hendricks pretending to put on lipstick with her cleavage

Save for a few musical cues and location shots projected onto the screen, live reads are low-key affairs, so it’s always enlivening when the cast can actually act out simple scenes from the movie. One of those highlights was Christina Hendricks showing off Claire’s “special skill,” i.e. putting on lipstick with her cleavage. Hendricks bowed her head down and tousled her hair as she pretended to apply the lipstick. (As a side note, Hendricks was phenomenal as popular girl, Claire. Like Joan from Mad Men, she possessed enough quick-witted attitude to be the perfect foil to Bender).

4. Richard E. Grant giving the bulls hand gesture

After his excellent performance as Melissa McCarthy’s literary accomplice in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, this live reading was like Richard E. Grant’s TIFF victory lap. His best moment was when he said to Bender, “Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns,” as he triumphantly raised his horn hand gesture into the air like some kind of rock star.

5. Uncomfortable moments in the age of #MeToo  

Last spring in an op-ed for the New Yorker, the original Claire, Molly Ringwald, reflected on gender politics and the cultural legacy of John Hughes’ films in the age of #MeToo. “If attitudes toward female subjugation are systemic, and I believe that they are, it stands to reason that the art we consume and sanction plays some part in reinforcing those same attitudes,” she wrote. With this article in mind, I was deftly aware of all the uncomfortable moments in the script, like when Bender bullies Claire by calling her “a tease,” badgers her about her sexual experience, or when it’s implied that he touches her inappropriately as he hides under her desk from Mr. Vernon. As Reitman read the actors’ directions, “Bender, with his head between Claire’s knees,” I couldn’t help but cringe.

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