St Elmo's Fire


Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

I would like to have been a fly on the wall when writer/director Joel Schumacher pitched this one.

So, Joel, what's it all about?

Well, Mr Studio Boss, it's a piece of coming-of-age tosh about a group of whiney twentysomethings with big hair, big shoulder pads and big make-up. We've signed up Emilio and Judd and Rob and all the gang, but don't worry, the script's so bad it'll kill their careers stone dead and hopefully hammer that final nail into the Brat Pack coffin. Oh yeah, and we'll probably bomb at the box office.

St Elmo's Fire follows the growing pains of a bunch of angst-ridden college buddies as they struggle to make it in the real world. On the surface they seem to have it all, but emotionally they're wrecks. Extrovert Jules (Demi Moore) has a drug problem. Sax player Billy (Rob Lowe) has a wife and kid but still hankers for the old days when he was frat king. Rich kid Wendy (Mare Winningham) wants to break free from her overbearing father. Yuppie Alec (Judd Nelson) works in politics but doesn't know if he's a Democrat or a Republican. Struggling hack Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) is gay, or so everyone thinks, but Kevin has a thing for Alec's girlfriend Leslie (Ally Sheedy). Alec may or may not have had a thing with Jules. Billy has a thing for Jules and then Wendy. Kirby (Emilio Estevez) doesn't have a thing for anyone, except Dale (Andie MacDowell), but she's so far out of his league it's not even funny.

If it all sounds convoluted and tiresome, then that's because it is. The characters might have their own problems but in the end, even before the predictable denouement, they all start sounding the same - self-absorbed and self-pitying - and long before the credits roll you just want to grab them by the scruff of the neck and tell them to get a life.

It's nonsense, of course, but enjoyable nonsense, and I don't mind admitting I have a soft spot for it. Maybe because I was at college when it first came out and I wanted to play that sax like Rob Lowe, while snogging Ally Sheedy. Maybe the real-life-stinks undercurrent strikes a chord. Maybe I'm just a sucker for Eighties tat.

The film is like a time capsule and you can't help watching it with a car-crash fascination. The crimes against taste are heinous and you know you should look away but you can't. Demi Moore not only spends the film fully clothed - and that's not something you find yourself saying too often these days - but also buried under a mountain of extravagantly bouffanted hair. Leggings, big specs, tiny ties and rolled up jacket sleeves - they're all there and they're not always easy on the eye.

But there's a certain pleasure to be had in the naffness of it all, in its Friends-lite take on old pals growing up and growing apart. But even without Chandler's witty one-liners and the coffee-culture coolness it still manages to pack a punch. The performances are solid and on the evidence of this you wonder how the likes of Winningham and McCarthy managed to disappear from the radar.

And I don't care what you say, Rob Lowe still plays a mean sax and I still want to snog Ally Sheedy.

Reviewed on: 03 Feb 2006
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Eighties kitsch that follows a group of college buddies as they make their way in the real world.
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Director: Joel Schumacher

Writer: Joel Schumacher, Carl Kurlander

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Mare Winningham

Year: 1985

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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