The Brat Pack Fire Up for a Coming of Age Story
If someone asked me to pick one movie which typified growing up in the 80's, I would have to pick "St Elmo's Fire" as one of the best movies from that decade. Although the storyline is pretty simple and is basically a coming of age type tale, the characters and the issues they face were, and still are, very real and what makes it such a good movie. Like the TV series "Friends", the characters in "St Elmo's Fire" are very easy to relate to and you can quickly find similarities between yourself and at least one character, whether it is the popular musician who cannot face up to the responsibility of parenthood, or the timid one who lacks confidence. It's not just the characters and issues which make "St Elmo's Fire" my movie choice from the 80's but the sights and sounds of the movie, from the clothes, to the hairstyles and the music just typify everything that was good and also bad about the 80's.
Having graduated from the Georgetown College, seven friends enter the real world full of expectation at the pleasures that being an adult will bring. But four months down the line and they are all struggling to deal with issues such as work, love and responsibility as the pressures of adulthood weigh heavy on their shoulders especially those of Billy Hicks (Rob Lowe - About Last Night) who is desperately trying to hold on to the fun of being young.
As already mentioned "St Elmo's Fire" is basically a 'coming of age' movie, as it follows the issues of 7 college graduates as they enter adulthood and the real world. It's not overly complex to follow, but all based on real life issues. First up you have the seemingly successful one who behind the fašade of her fancy apartment and expensive wardrobe, she is an emotional wreck whose spending is spiralling out of control. Then you have the timid one who lacks self confidence and sexual experience who happens to fancy the ultra cool member of the group who although has got married and has a young child just can't deal with being a responsible adult as he loses job after job. On top of this we have one of them fancying someone completely out of their league and losing all grip on reality in his chase for her and then there is a love triangle as two of the group fancy the same woman, whilst one of them struggles with his work the other struggles with infidelity.
To be honest, anyone who never experienced "St Elmo's Fire" back in the 80's will probably not appreciate it for how good it is, and will more than likely just class it as just another cheesy movie which hasn't aged overly well. In some ways they would be right and the story does have a few flaws, most notably a rather out of place musical scene in the bar where everyone suddenly starts singing a chorus of some song whilst the supporting cast start dancing, but then again this was quite typical of the movies from the 80s and is actually mildly amusing.
What is also very noticeable are all the issues it deals with, and these include drug taking, debt and being a successful yuppie, are still as relevant today in one form or another as they were back in the 80s. It means that whilst "St Elmo's Fire" may look dated what it gets across is still important
The cast of "St Elmo's Fire" basically features many of the Hollywood 'bratpack' from the 80's with the likes of Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy and Demi Moore in lead roles. Not some of their greatest performances but as most of them were still very young and had very few films under their belts, they do reasonable jobs of handling quite difficult roles.
First up you have the character of Jules played by Demi Moore who is basically the seemingly successful business woman who has the looks, the money, the social drug habit and numerous sleeping partners but deep down she is struggling with keeping up the fašade. Then you have Wendy, played by Mare Winningham, who although was born into a rich family is trying to make it on her own, but lacks the confidence as she feels that she is less than beautiful. Next we have Billy 'the kid', played by Rob Lowe, who although has gone and got married and had a child, struggles with the whole acting responsible and still likes to party as if he was in college. Then we have Alec, played by Judd Nelson, the would-be politician who is in a settled relationship with Leslie, played by Ally Sheedy, but he struggles to remain faithful to her. This upsets budding journalist Kevin, played by Andrew McCarthy who has always fancied Leslie but hides his feelings. Finally you have Kirby, played by Emilio Estevez, who is at law school but fancies a doctor who is completely out of his league and in his pursuit of her loses grip on reality. Also making an appearance is Andie MacDowell as the beautiful doctor who Kirby pursues.
"St Elmo's Fire" was directed by Joel Schumacher and was in my opinion a transitional film where he showed that he was able to cope with making Hollywood blockbusters. Not that "St Elmo's Fire" is perfect and the aforementioned song and dance scene in the bar is one of a few more than dubious moments, but in general Schumacher has kept "St Elmo's Fire" very tight and managed to pull out some reasonable performances from a cast of young actors. His choice of music is also a key part to the success of the film with a strong slant towards the soft rock which was so popular in the 80's.
What this all boils down to is that I can't remember where I first saw "St Elmo's Fire" but since then I must have watched it well over a fifty times. Even now after 20 years, it still has to be one of my favourite movies, even though it looks very dated and compared to modern films may be perceived as being slightly cheesy. Yes it has its flaws, and some of these are quite funny, but it is also a very entertaining movie which deals with issues that many people face when entering adulthood. "St Elmo's Fire" may not be everyone's cup of tea as it does not have an overly complex story and for anyone who has never seen it may dismiss it as a very cheesy 80's movie full of bad clothes, bad hair and soft rock. But for those who grew up with it and remember it from the 80's then it is a definite DVD to have in your collection.