As I mentioned the other day, I recently started writing for French Toast Sunday, so to celebrate here’s a top 10 list of my favourite movie scenes involving breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, and as such it’s been widely represented within film. Here’s my run-down of the top scenes that take place at breakfast-time:
Honourable Mention: Falling Down
I’m not a massive fan of Joel Schumacher’s love letter to the working class, but I will admit that it’s buzz-cut head and shoulders above the rest of Schumacher’s work. Michael Douglas plays D-Fens, a seemingly normal engineer who, during one normal morning commute, suddenly snaps and goes on a rampage across Los Angeles, taking to justice a myriad of issues that plague the existence of him and the white collar guys he works with. I’m fine with this, as the points he makes are ones I’ve thought myself, but my issue comes at the end [SPOILER ALERT] when he is caught by Officer Prendergast (Robert Duvall), and it is revealed that D-Fens is actually a crazy person, thereby implying that I, having agreed with him thus far, am also crazy. Anyway, the breakfast scene. One of the first stops of his journey sees D-Fens attempting to acquire some sustenance to fuel his quest, and he opts to do so at fast food restaurant Whammy Burger, and orders his breakfast, but unfortunately they’ve just switched to the lunch menu three and a half minute ago, so he’s out of luck. This displeases Fens, so he pulls a gun, accidentally fires it into the ceiling, and couldn’t you know it suddenly the staff become a little more co-operative. However, the burger he receives looks nothing like the picture on the menu. This kind of thing has always irked me – thought I try to eat less fast food these days – but technically Fens doesn’t actually have any breakfast, hence why this is only an honourable mention. I could have gone with the french toast scene in Road Trip (which makes me nauseous just thinking about it), or the never-ending sea of grease that is Pleasantville’s breakfast scene, or when Jack Nicholson tells a waitress to hold the chicken between her knees in Five Easy Pieces, but I opted for Falling Down, because Douglas gives such a great performance.
And speaking of feeling nauseous, I find this one just disgusting. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), during his training period of the classic underdog boxing story, wakes at 4:02 am, turns on the radio, heads to the fridge and cracks five whole eggs into a glass, before chugging the whole thing (except for a few drips of yolk onto his sweatshirt), letting out a little belch and then heading out for his exercising. I’m not an egg guy, especially not raw (unless in cake mixture), so this just turns my stomach, but it’s the single shot, wordless save for the obnoxious radio DJ, and the burp that get me.
Elf is one of my favourite modern Christmas films, and its viewing has become a yuletide tradition of me and my girlfriend. The breakfast scene sees Buddy (Will Ferrell) treating his estranged father and his family (James Caan, Mary Steenburgen and Daniel Tay) to a delicious breakfast of spaghetti and syrup. This, along with the dinner scene prior, gives us a deeper explanation into just why Buddy is so hyper – because, like most elves, his diet is split into four major food groups – candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.
This is easily the most disgusting breakfast scene on the list as, after waking in his girlfriend Gail’s bedroom, Spud (Ewen Bremner) discovers he’s accidentally relieved himself in the night. Gail lives with her parents, so Spud attempts to remove the evidence with him and sneak out of the house, however to do so he must go through the dining room, where Gail and her parents are eating breakfast together. Gail Mum insists Spud leave the bedding with her to clean, but he’s understandably too embarrassed for that, so a brief tug of war takes place, until the sheets come loose and everyone and everything – except Spud – is on the receiving end of a heavy coating of his faeces. Delightful.
7. My Cousin Vinny
You know what I haven’t done in far too long of a time? Watched My Cousin Vinny. I may well watch it tonight. Anyway, this is a simple little scene, showing Vinny and Mona (Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei) attempting to enjoy a healthy breakfast in the small Alabama town in which they’re stranded whilst Vinny handles a court case. Alas, the only diner has just three possible ordering options – Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner – and the meal they receive is not exactly what they’d hoped, consisting of something that may have once been bacon, possibly an egg, and something called “grits,” which I’m still not entirely sure of its origin.
5. Groundhog Day
Phil Connors (Bill Murray), having discovered he’s stuck in a time loop of repeating the same day over and over, possibly for eternity, celebrates this fact in a manner most of us would – by eating whatever he damn well likes, without even a passing consideration of cholesterol. The diner scenes in Groundhog Day are great, particularly when Phil makes his way around the cafe, revealing details about these supposed strangers that he should never know, but damn if I wouldn’t like to just chow down on that carb mountain some morning.
4. Pulp Fiction
There’s a few breakfast scenes in Pulp Fiction worthy of being on the list – technically Jules and Vince (Samuel L. Jaconson and John Travolta) interrupt a Big Kahuna breakfast early on – but as we see very little of the actual dining then, I’ve declined its position. Instead, the entire diner robbery gets a high place, courtesy of the pig discussion (“One charmin’ motherfuckin’ pig”), the announcement of the thieves (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer), and the whole dialogue between Jackson and Roth, regarding the former’s wallet. This would have gotten a higher position had it centred more on the meal at hand, because this is one damn fine scene.
3. Big Night
This scene is just beautiful. After the eponymous important evening in the film we are treated to the morning after, in a near-silent, unbroken five minute shot of the kitchen of the restaurant run by the two brothers (Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub). The waiter (Marc Anthony) wakes up on the preparation area as Tucci comes in to make breakfast, and the latter silently, and expertly, makes a simple frittata, splits it into three and serves it with a chunk of bread before Shalhoub comes in with his glorious moustache to join them. After such a hectic and eventful night before, this moment of silence and poignancy is the perfect seasoning to the film.
2. Reservoir Dogs
Better than Pulp Fiction?!?!? Yes. I’m one of those people that prefers Reservoir Dogs to Tarantino’s second effort, mainly because I saw Dogs first and have seen it many more times since. The breakfast scene takes place before the jewel heist that is the central conceit around which the plot is based, and it does such a great job of giving us an insight into all of these characters. Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) is just out for himself, he doesn’t even care about the waitresses, Mr. Brown (Tarantino) is an overly opinionated chatterbox likely to cross someone and get himself shot, Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) a brooding menace, Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker) is just there to make up the numbers. It’s a masterful way to open the film, and has some cracking dialogue too (“dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick, dick.”).
1. Kramer Vs Kramer
There’s two breakfast scenes in Kramer Vs Kramer, and I’m going to cheat by using both of them, because they only really work in conjunction with each other, but in that sense they’re perfect. When Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) leaves her husband Ted (Dustin Hoffman) and young son Billy (Justin Henry), Ted has no idea how to care for the boy. He’s always been the bread-winner, whilst his wife dealt with such trivialities as actually feeding the kid. So, when Ted has to make his son breakfast, he opts for French toast, but has no idea where anything in the kitchen is, so he breaks the eggs into his coffee mug – with a good helping of shell too – but finds the bread too big to dunk in, so folds it in half first, and drowns the bread in the remaining milk and egg mix when they’re all in the saucepan. He abandons the pan for too long and burns the bread, only to throw it all on the floor when he goes to pick the hot pan up with an unprotected hand. However, by the end of the film, once these two have gotten to know one another and spent some quality time together, they’re working like a well-oiled machine and make breakfast even more synchronised than Morecambe and Wise.