No announcement yet.

St. Elmo's Fire (1985)

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • St. Elmo's Fire (1985)

    St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)
    Mare Winningham, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, and Andie McDowell. Directed by Joel Schumacher.

    No fan of Brat Pack films should admit he’s in his mid-forties and still hasn’t seen Joel Schumacher’s St. Elmo’s Fire, one of two films that literally define the Brat Pack itself, yet until this weekend I had not seen it. It was rated R by the MPAA and I was sixteen when it was in theaters, and for some reason I just never got caught up. My parents were strict about movies, and although I’d seen The Breakfast Club in high school at my father’s urging, the number of R-rated films I saw before I turned eighteen is about equal to the number of Brat Packers who served their detention at Shermer High School on that storied Saturday.

    I’m kind of glad I waited this long, because what the movie lacks in believable script, admirable characters, and thoughtful dialogue, it makes up for, twenty-nine years later, in nostalgia, at least for an aging Gen-Xer like me. The quality of this nostalgia makes the movie much more likable than it deserves, and that’s okay with me.

    Seven recent Georgetown University graduates, best friends in college and still best friends a few months later, work through a variety of issues. Wendy, a welfare worker played by Mare Winningham, struggles to find an identity separate from her wealthy family’s greeting-card business, wanting to make her own way on her terms, and not to rush into marriage and family with another of her father’s hand-picked employees. She’s not-so-secretly in love with Billy (Rob Lowe, typically creepy). Billy’s still trying to hang onto a frat-boy life, despite being the only one in the group with a spouse and child. He’s good enough a saxophone player to have his own band and a regular gig at a favorite bar, but he can’t hold down any of the regular day jobs he gets recommended for by his friend Alec.

    Alec, played by Judd Nelson, is an aspiring politico, working for a Democratic congressman but making a move to work instead for a Republican, because there’s more money there. He’s living with (and begging to be married to) Leslie (Ally Sheedy). Leslie’s not in a hurry to wed because she hasn’t established a career yet, and doesn’t want to be identified as someone’s wife before she’s found an identity as her own person. Alec’s best friend Kevin, an aspiring newspaper writer played by Andrew McCarthy, seems to be struggling with sexual identity issues after a conversation in which Jules (Demi Moore) tries to convince him he’s gay. Jules, a bank employee, is living well beyond her means in a huge apartment and in what we’ve come now to think of as a stereotypical partying yuppie lifestyle.

    The group’s seventh member, and the only one who doesn’t seem to have issues with any of the others, is Kirby, played by Emilio Estevez. He’s a waiter in the group’s hangout, St. Elmo’s Bar, and I write about him separately because his piece of the plot surrounds the pursuit of an older Georgetown alumna, Dale (Andie McDowell), a physician at an area hospital, and Kirby’s interactions with the group are a lot less involved. Kirby goes to ridiculous lengths to woo Dale, and if certain other characters remind one of the better teen films of the Eighties, Kirby seems to be there to remind one of the most juvenile, least believable of those films. Or, to give Schumacher the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he’s there as a foil for Billy. Where Billy has the reality of a real grown-up life with grown-up responsibilities he’s too immature to deal with, Kirby is still playing a child’s game with grown-up pieces and no sense for real, post-college relationships.

    In one sense, St. Elmo’s Fire seems to do a pretty good job of tapping into what we now remember as Gen-X angst. Those first uncertain steps out of college and into career are riddled for all of us with countless missteps and misconceptions; for people my age they were also complicated by a few issues unique to us: following in the ridiculous wake left by the Boomers before us in a suddenly post-Cold-War world where things we learned to fear were slowly fading and things we learned to value were crashing down around us. Three of seven characters in this film have marriage issues at age 22, something that should not be lost on critics who might accuse it of lacking relevance.

    Yet where the film manages to find that space where characters struggle with the things we really struggled with, they are sequined with details and plot elements that do not do those characters (or the talented actors who play them) justice. Schumacher’s crimes are not egregious; except for the entirety of the Kirby plot, the story is mostly believable and not difficult to relate to. But where John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club gave us the feeling that its five characters might possibly say and do the things they say and do, the St. Elmo’s gang doesn’t seem to know how to have an interesting conversation.

    And this is unfortunate, because where most of my nostalgia comes from is this group of beautiful, likable, fairly talented actors who are an indelible memory of my childhood, actors who played characters who played a part in my defining who I was, separate from the Boomers of my parents’ generation and yet destined in retrospect to figure it out in a way that was my own and yet not that different. Ally Sheedy’s pointed chin, Judd Nelson’s flared nostrils, Demi Moore’s raspy come-hither voice: they immediately take me back to a time when I naively thought that I would never sell out, when I thought I was different, a future world-changer.

    There’s no way Schumacher could have know that’s what these actors, not yet dubbed the Brat Pack, would come to represent. He could not possibly have known he was making an iconic film with an iconic soundtrack and iconic actors that someone like me, forty years later, could even get this wistful about, but maybe that’s my biggest criticism. My nostalgia deserves a better movie than this. John Hughes did it, and I think it’s fair to criticize Schumacher for not doing it too.

    Despite these shortcomings, I enjoyed the heck out of this movie and will likely see it again. If not the ten million times I’ve seen The Breakfast Club, then perhaps just one or two million.

    6/10 (IMDb rating)
    67/100 (Criticker rating)
    But I'm disturbed! I'm depressed! I'm inadequate! I GOT IT ALL! (George Costanza)

  • #2
    Re: St. Elmo's Fire (1985)

    I am going to make a point of viewing this film.

    As usual a great review from a great reviewer.

    All the



    • #3
      Re: St. Elmo's Fire (1985)

      The sequel.


      • #4
        Re: St. Elmo's Fire (1985)

        That kind of electrical discharge is very real , and very frightening if it happens on a airplane flight.

        When I was a tiny wee youngster my mother and my two brothers were on an Icelandic Air plane bound for Gander and then Idlewilde.

        The plane had gotten about 15 minutes out and I looked out the window and part of the cowling had ripped free and the engine block had a visible crack.

        the crew issued us lifejackets and were very expert survival savants.

        The crew turned on landing lights and I could see whitecaps about 500 meters below.

        The crew very skill fully brought the craft back to Reykavik.

        Bacon and scrambled eggs never tasted better than that breakfast.