Nothing says beauty, privilege and the pains of young adulthood like St. Elmo’s Fire. The 1985 film was written and directed by Joel Schumacher, a master of characters, evident in his future films like 8MM and The Phantom of the Opera.
This film takes place after a group of friend graduates from prestigious Georgetown University near Washington D.C. The group is closely knit, but when the film opens, the seams have started to come apart.
Starring many well known actors, several were at the height of their debauchery as members of the ‘80s celebrity circle known as the Brat Pack. Demi Moore plays Jules, the beautiful girl on the verge of a financial and mental breakdown. Andrew McCarthy is the tormented but witty writer in love with his best friend’s girl, played by Ally Sheedy.
Other well known faces populate the screen as fashionable, endearing characters in various stages of quarter-life crisis. Perhaps the most compelling of the characters is Billy Hicks, played by Rob Lowe. He is the golden boy of the group, beautiful and self destructive.
After college however, his destruction starts to spill over onto those he loves. Primarily, this means hurting his friend Wendy, played by Mare Winningham. She is smitten over Billy and torn apart by unrequited love.
The film carries us through a variable mix of elements and emotions and feels as brilliant and tumultuous as your 20s truly are. Watching it now will be a nostalgic taste of the ‘80s for some and a nice introduction to the era for others.
The clothes pack color and the soundtrack is enveloping. All components are beautiful in illustrating the best of a decade and a generation.
Still, the film is timeless in the struggles of its characters. Like most of us, they sort out relationships, careers and ultimately responsibility for their lives.
I loved each separate, yet connected, storyline, but I would definitely vote in favor of shortening the screen time given to the dilemma faced by fun-loving and boyish Kirby. Though the character is played wonderfully by Emilio Estevez, Kirby’s pursuit of an older woman serves as a rather lengthy interruption of the more interesting battles the group faces with one another.
I could list many films and projects with similar elements. Gossip Girl has privileged youth, Friends is well, about friends, and the Breakfast Club has ‘80s charm. No matter what you love about various plot elements, the main line tying you to this film is that of growing up.
Watching St. Elmo’s Fire will leave you emotionally invested in the story and this group of friends.
Even now, you might idly wonder what beautiful Billy or crazy Jules are up to in their middle age. Did they come to terms with who they were and who they were supposed to be? Are they still friends? Whatever happened, I can assure you, they turned out all right because we will all turn out all right.