While the above is a play on classic titles, “breakfast” has certainly been a recurring theme across screen history, from high school kids wasting away at The Breakfast Club to Holly Golightly famously eating in front of Tiffany’s.
Accordingly, it interests me to list a few iconic moments that draw attention to the most important yet ignored meal of the day. What is the secret behind these classics that propelled directors to cinematically “breakfast” on?
First point here is that breakfast is not really the point. When naming their films, John Hughes and Blake Edwards were most likely not thinking of breakfast but rather the idea of it, also known as the end of yesterday and start of today. Leaving Vegas in Vegas, hope comes from restoring order and resetting the past the way Scarlett O”Hara exclaims in her famous line, “after all, tomorrow is another day!”. A new beginning always ties up previous wildness, which breakfast officially terminates by dragging charged souls back into their usual orbits.
In The Breakfast Club, Friday mischiefs would have triumphed if the five teenagers had not been physically stranded in Saturday morning detention. Paradoxically, the lack of freedom ended up subduing their discontent and forcing them to bond over being more than their respective stereotypes.
In the midst of escalating existential crises, the idea of breakfast sobered them up. Embedded in the word itself, breakfast literally meant “breaking the overnight fast,” biologically in the form of hunger or cognitively in the form of fantasy. Dressed in Givenchy from the night before, Hepburn’s longing gaze into Tiffany’s served a wake up call that the party was over and her halo had withered. She was left to grab the paper bag containing her breakfast and the tighter she grabbed, the further she drifted from yesterday’s glory.
Trapped in a time loop like Phil Connors was in Groundhog Day, we would soon learn that even unlimited gluttony failed to escape recurring hungry, as if tomorrow had successfully guarded its spell in spite of a never ending today. In My Cousin Vinny, the young couple was doomed in Alabama to handle a difficult court case. Upon ordering “breakfast” from the only available diner where the only available options were breakfast, lunch, or dinner, a stream of consciousness regenerated in Vinny that perhaps this very day could the one of his long waited victory.
If diner was to romance and passion, breakfast was to family and domesticity. In The Public Enemy’s famous table dispute scene, Tom Powers violently smashed a grapefruit in his girlfriend Kitty’s face after being denied alcohol and told to “find someone he like[d] better”. Her desire to settle down was tragically overturned by his desire to craze on. Last but not least, the Italian movie Big Night seamlessly concluded its dramatic banquet with a one shot breakfast episode of the coming dawn. A powerful denouement where frenzy eased into routine, the brothers would eat their final meal before closing down their beloved restaurant. Silent throughout, raucous conversation was replaced by something more precious—the prospect of each other’s company.