Coming of Age: St. Elmo’s Fire

St. Elmo’s Fire is a highly entertaining film about a group of recent college grads coming of age in the decadent decade known as the 1980s.

ST-ELMOS FIRE (1985)
Starring: Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Andrew McCarthy, Ally Sheedy and Mare Winningham
Written by: Joel Schumacher and Carl Kurlander
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
110 minutes

When I was looking for coming of age films to review this month, I got a little giddy when I noticed this week’s film in my film library. (Yes as I’m sure you’ve all guessed I’m a giant film dork and own enough films for me to justifiably call my collection a library.) I admit right off the bat that St-Elmo’s Fire is no great masterpiece. But like I mentioned with my Whip It review, sometimes a film doesn’t have to be “great art”. It has to be fun. And even with all its overacting and god awful eighties fashion, the story of seven friends trying to navigate life after college is one entertaining film.

Couple Alec (Judd Nelson) and Leslie (Ally Sheedy) appear to be the most committed and responsible of the bunch, but of course appearances can be deceiving. I love Nelson and Sheedy in this film mostly because they play polar opposite characters then what I assume most people of my generation really know them for, Bender and Allison in The Breakfast Club (1985).

Room mates Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) and Kirby (Emilio Estevez) may be different in most aspects but both share an unfortunate problem of pinning for women they’ll never have.  Kevin and Kirby are definitely the most annoying characters of the film but they have some pretty funny scenes, like when Kevin tries to convince a prostitute to sleep with him and Kirby goes so crazy over Dale (Andie MacDowell, who doesn’t do much in the film but looks absolutely radiant every moment she’s on camera) that he stalks her to a cabin in the woods and almost freezes to death.

The wild pair of the bunch is Jules (Demi Moore) and Billy (Rob Lowe) two incredibly lovable, incredibly screwed up people who are realizing that in the big bad world your charm only gets you so far.  Moore and Lowe have amazing sexual chemistry and while its fun watching their characters together onscreen, you know you’d never want the burden of having those two as your friends.

And finally there’s Wendy (Mare Winningham) the shy rich girl whose heart is sometimes a little too big for her own good. Winningham gives the most honest and grounded performance of all the actors. The way she quietly loves Billy despite all of his obvious faults is sweet and heartbreaking.

Alec and Leslie may have the most mature relationship, Jules and Billy have the relationship with the most chemistry, but Wendy and Billy have the most interesting relationship by far. The gang all think that Billy uses Wendy as little more than an ATM machine, but in their scenes together you discover there’s actually a deep love that runs between them. I feel for the Wendy character; seriously, it would be pretty damn hard not to fall madly in love with Rob Lowe circa 1985…

So  if you find yourself in the mood for some eighties campiness but want something a little more grown up then a John Hughes film, St.Elmos Fire is just what you’re looking for.

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