St. Elmo’s Fire is one of the sneakiest movies of all-time. With its brat pack cast and its plot about young people struggling with love, friendship, and growing up, you could swear it’s a John Hughes film, but it’s not! It’s written and directed by Joel Schumacher, the man who unleashed Batman and Robin on an innocent public. It explains why this movie is never quite right. While the cast have three fifths of The Breakfast Club, they never really gel together, with some plotlines that make you think you’ve accidentally changed the channel. However, the film’s awkwardness makes it a fun Movie Night pick to munch on popcorn to and mock.
Seven friends graduate college together and have to navigate adulthood and their changing relationships. The school they attended is based on Georgetown and while I can see political hopeful Alec (Judd Nelson) or future lawyer Kirby (Emilio Estevez), but we’re really supposed to believe saxophone playing, womanizer Billy (Rob Lowe)not only got accepted to such a prestigious school but managed to graduate? I mean a lot of groups have a lovable bad boy, but Billy is a little too extreme. I think it was a mistake to have him be a husband and father because not only does it make it seem like he had WAY TOO MUCH TIME ON HIS HANDS to finish school, but his frustration over his life makes him hard to root for. You don’t like a guy who says he was “Fucked for life!” when he impregnated his wife.
Also a little too over the top is Jules (Demi Moore). There are moments where you get the idea Demi accidentally switched scripts. I’m always confounded by the scene where she begs Alec to save her from a bunch of coked up creeps at a hotel, only to be kind of annoyed at him when gets there. Jules is the ultimate victim of the 80s, left shaking and destroyed by too many drugs and too much selfishness.
Another character that seems a bit lost in this film is Kirby. He spends the entire film stalking Andie MacDowell, going as far as to follow her and her boyfriend on vacation. He goes through huge stretches of the film without interacting with any of the other six major characters. He basically shows up at the beginning and the end, and spends the rest of his time being creepy as hell.
The film is far too cluttered. There is no need for seven main characters! The characters that seem to epitomize the film’s theme of the extreme changes one goes through when transitioning from college to real world are Alec, Leslie (Ally Sheedy), and Kevin (Andrew McCarthy). Kevin has been in love with Leslie for years, and has had to stand back and watch her be with Alec. With graduation behind them, Alec wants to get married, but Leslie isn’t ready and doesn’t like his recent Republican leanings. Kevin is but in the difficult spot of knowing that Alec is sleeping around. When Alec and Leslie’s relationship hits a tough spot, Kevin tells Leslie how he feels about her and the two spend the night together, which Alec quickly finds out about. That’s really all the plot you need. However, like the rest of this movie, it takes everything a step too far. There’s a wonderfully melodramatic scene where the couple discusses their shared record collection. Alec defends himself, saying he was less guilty that Leslie because the people he slept with didn’t matter to him, while she chose to sleep with a close friend of them both. It’s epically 80s, with Alec declaring “No Springsteen leaves this house!”
This film tries really hard to copy John Hughes’ style, but it’s missing all the heart and charm. I would recommend checking it out if you catch it on cable, it’s a fairly entertaining viewing experience but be prepared to say “WTF?” more than once.