There’s a moment in Guy Guido’s vibrant, highly entertaining new movie Madonna and the Breakfast Club (formerly known as Emmy and the Breakfast Club) that’s not only touching, but astonishing in that the audience is watching a vivid recreation of a moment that could have forever changed pop culture history as we know it: It’s the dawn of the 1980’s, and a young Madonna (Jamie Auld)– before she was blonde and long before she was a one-name wonder– is crying alone in her tiny, cold, and depressing New York City apartment. She’s despondent that her aspirations of fame and success aren’t going very well… and she’s thinking about moving back to the comfort of her family home in Michigan. To state the obvious, the future pop star toughed it out and stayed in the dirty, noisy, and chaotic urban jungle of New York City of the ’80’s. Even Madonna herself probably couldn’t imagine that it would be only a few short years before nightclubbers were dancing to Everybody, that she’d secure a deal with Sire Records, that her first album would hit record shelves… and, well, we all know the rest…
Then again, despite a few low moments, maybe Madonna DID always know that she’d become an international celebrity all along. Certainly, all of Madonna’s real-life peers who have their say in Madonna and the Breakfast Club (including her former bandmates, friends, and peers in the music biz at the time) reveal an ongoing sentiment: This was a woman who knew what she wanted, went for it, and ultimately found it in a big way. When her bandmate and secret admirer Gary Burke (played by James David Larson) asks Auld-as-Madonna “Were you ever afraid to say what you want?”, the hungry-eyed 20-something responds, with deadpan directness, “No.” Madonna wanted to be famous. ‘Nuff said… It’s a safe bet that 99.9% of the audience at the movie’s premiere at the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn, New York on Wednesday, March 6th were hardcore Madonna fans. But even those who don’t worship at the altar of Ms. Ciccone would be hard-pressed not to admire the star’s drive, tenacity, and work ethic after seeing this film about Madge’s early years. One of Guido’s greatest achievement in Madonna and the Breakfast Club is showing just how Maddy gave her heart, soul, and everything in between to ultimately become a worldwide superstar– even if it meant bathing in a sink while living at a decrepit building, constantly hustling on a payphone, begging the partner of an agent to take her cassette, or breaking up with her kind boyfriend– who, sadly, couldn’t compete with the future star’s ambitions.
A documentary with gorgeously shot re-enactment scenes, Madonna and the Breakfast Club opens in 1979 in Corona, Queens, at the home of Madonna’s then boyfriend and Breakfast Club bandmate Dan Gilroy (played by Calvin Knie). As the two playfully lounge around in bed, the audience gets to hear a real recording of the two young aspiring musicians engaging in silly but cute lovers’ talk. We soon learn from this scene that writer/director Guido’s secret weapon is in the woman portraying the 20-something superstar-to-be: Jamie Auld. Ms. Auld, a neophyte actor, looks so much like the young Madonna that it’s downright eerie. From the moment when Auld first appears on the screen, it’s as like watching rare vintage photos of Madonna come to life. In addition to being a dead ringer for the star, Auld also captures young Madonna’s street-smart yet somewhat vulnerable persona as well as her coquettish sex appeal. It’s no mystery why, according to many of the men interviewed in the film, that everyone who met Madonna had a crush on her. Through loving and meticulous research into Maddy’s early life, the audience re-lives all the highlights (and, admittedly, low points) from her nascent career– including her early experimentation with songwriting, her nude modeling, and her starring role in Stephen Jon Lewicki’s low-budget exploitation film A Certain Sacrifice. As mentioned before, Guy Guido accomplishes these flashbacks through eye-popping re-enactments, as well rare photos and audio bytes. When we finally see the enchanting Ms. Auld as a newly blonde Madonna– begging the DJ to play her song, sucking a lollipop and sporting bold new “boy toy”-style makeup– the audience can’t help but feel a shiver down their collective spines: We see, for the first time, the woman that would make herself a household name… and much, much more.
The Madonna we see in Madonna and the Breakfast Club may seem eons away from the mother of six who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, who rocked a pink leotard in the music video for Hung Up, who advocated for the HIV/AIDS crisis in Malawi, or who shows us that 60 is still sexy. But for those who stayed up past our bedtimes to catch the video for Borderline on Friday Night Videos at 12:30AM in 1983, or counted the number of rubber bracelets Madge wore on her first album cover, the events in the film may seem like just yesterday even though they were over 30 years ago. Regardless of whether you first discovered Madonna on vinyl, cassette, CD, or mp3, Guy Guido’s debut feature is a superb piece of American pop culture history come to life.
Madonna and the Breakfast Club will be available on DVD and VOD on Thursday, March 13th.