- Movie Rating -

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

| June 28, 1985

I hated characters in St. Elmo’s Fire.  They are self-obsessed, narcissistic, alcoholic adulterers with shallow philosophies about life that are so narrow-minded that you have to look twice to make sure their serious.  They party and get drunk every single night of their lives, they hang around each other so much and so often that you wonder whose paying their bills.  Plus, the continuity in their activities is so unhealthy and dangerous that you’re shocked that by the end of the movie half of them aren’t dead in an alley somewhere.  This wasn’t my revelation halfway through, my back went up in about the first 10 minutes

All of this behavior might not be so bad if there was an indication that they suffered from it – hangovers, legal problems, personal issues, but no.  They don’t learn anything and they just amble on to the next thing and they’re able to laugh their way through circumstances that should come with consequences.

The characters are six recent Georgetown University students who are apparently searching for their place in the world.  The movie wants us to believe that they are struggling through that strange period between the protected arena of college life and the cold winters of real life, but they reconcile their transition with activities that lead you to believe that they will never leave the campus.

For reasons I still haven’t understood, the characters seem to have been purposely written to be unlikable, which may have been the point.  Director Joel Schumacher and co-writer Carl Kurlander have written characters that are free of John Hughes brand of humanizing and just present them as shallow and self-defeating.  That’s fine, but when Hughes wrote Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, he gave his characters are human side so that we could connect with them.  Yes, they engaged in unwise behavior but we understood why they acted that way.  We saw the pain in their activities.

Here, there is no human angle so we just see a lot of behavior.  The characters are types.  Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) has such a respect for women that all of his friends wonder if he is gay.  Billy (Rob Lowe) is a shameless drunken party boy who hardly ever takes the lampshade off his head long enough to even acknowledge that he has a wife and child.  Kirby (Emilio Estevez) is a law student who is having an affair with an older woman.  Alec (Judd Nelson) is an adulterer who is convinced that if he marries Leslie (Ally Sheedy) it will mean that he will have to stop cheating on her.  Jules (Demi Moore) intends to use her sexuality to get ahead in the world.  And Wendy is her opposite, a sweet virgin who keeps to herself.

This is the beginning of an idea.  These are character traits that should be established at the beginning and then resolve through dramatic conflict to the end, but the movie embellishes their behavior.  Schumacher wants to show these behaviors as negative and unhealthy but his cinematography and his soundtrack luxuriate their every move.

I hated this movie’s philosophy.  I hated its characters.  I hated it’s idea that drug and alcohol were the perfect salve on a personal problem.  I hated the supporting characters, the minorities who are treated as stereotypes.  I hated what this movie was, what it stood for and what it had to say.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Drama