St. Elmo’s Fire (Joel Schumacher, 1985) April 6, 2010Posted by Richard Bolisay in Hollywood.
“I have the perfect solution. Stay away from love.”
What? Stay away from you? That’s impossible!
Written by Joel Schumacher and Karl Curlander
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy
Oh, the appeal of these movies. Charming actors playing semi-charmed kind of lives, making themselves look like us, only we’re not them and they’re not us. I know there isn’t much realism to expect from mainstream movies, but a good rule of thumb must always be observed concerning credibility, whatever rule that is.
Emilio Estevez as Kirby is cute because he’s a bit on the small side and he acts funny. But when he starts to pursue a nurse he first met in college, who the hell she may be—Andie McDowell it turns out—he drops every cute thing about him. There’s this ‘STUPID: don’t bother’ note pasted on his forehead since then, which, of all things noticeable, he doesn’t notice. Rob Lowe as Billy and Demi Moore as Jules are plain caricatures of junkies, made worse by their portrayal. But credit goes to them for giving the title of the film some sense in the end, which really isn’t much to brag about. Ridiculous is how Billy slings his sax on his back like any mountaineer would with his knapsack, or that nagging thought that goes, “Isn’t Jules too bright to graduate on time in Georgetown?”
On the other hand, Mare Winningham as Wendy is given too much clothes to make her look prehistoric, like she’s not rich and has no access to intelligent books, magazines, and whatnot. Worse, the writers give her the worst lines, and worst responses to top those! Remember Billy’s request before he leaves, “Would you give me a going-away present?” which is funny if she slapped him before she consented but she didn’t! She really gave him his idea of a going-away present.
Judd Nelson as Alec and Ally Sheedy as Leslie are a long-time couple troubled by each other’s shortcomings, her not wanting to marry him just yet, and his womanizing activities unknown to her. Here, the writers strike again, giving Alec some “political depth” with the Republican and Democrat shit, and Leslie some feminist (or feminine?) stuff to defend herself against. What are these writers thinking?
But wait—is a wait really necessary here?—there is Andrew McCarthy. Andrew McCarthy! Before I get ahead of myself here let me share first that he plays Kevin, an aspiring writer who keeps asking about the meaning of life as he persists in writing something about it, hoping to publish it. Which he achieves eventually—only why is it that when I freeze that shot of the newspaper article, there is nothing about the meaning of life at all? Ack, really, the appeal of these movies! Anyway, Andrew McCarthy has aged as everyone else does, but in his younger days, especially in his Brat Pack movies, he looks like everyone’s idea of beautiful. His eyes are the best thing about him, how they talk without talking, how their blueness engulfs and melts like the sweetest embrace, how they’re just the most expressive eyes ever to look at anyone. Those eyes wrap around like a voluptuous snake, and a killer serpent at that. Next to his eyes are his lips, how they seem comfy to lie on, and his smile that can launch a thousand . . . whatever. The hair is also an attractive sight, thick and wavy, almost rugged, but smells like a freshly flipped pancake. (. . . sinks in that this is not a review of Andrew McCarthy) Jules suspects Kevin of being gay—the only guy in the University who didn’t make a pass at her, she says—like what’s wrong with singing along with Aretha when you’re alone, and turning the music off when someone comes? But of course, predictable this movie is, Kevin is not gay because he is in love with Leslie, keeping it secretly to himself, Leslie who is the girlfriend of his best friend Alec. Come to think of it, there’s some real conflict after all! Interesting, real conflict! Kevin declares to Leslie, eyes locked on her, “. . . I think the reason I’m not interested in other women, and why I haven’t had sex in so long, is because I’m desperately, completely in love with you,” which is just maddening to hear because Andrew McCarthy is the one saying it! Then after that scene, one has to forget how lousy everything turns out.
Who would’ve thought that a film so successful then would feel so dated among the same audience now? And by “the same audience now” I mean myself—a few years after graduation, loveless, struggling, making up my own St. Elmo’s fires, and bit by bit losing touch with my college friends? Though it ends rather civilly—with all the problems patched up and the friends sticking up for each other—St. Elmo’s Fire could have helped itself better with less servings of drama but more platefuls of wit and tasteful sentimentality, taking advantage of its good-looking actors with a smart script. But since this is from Joel Schumacher, that’s too much to ask, I suppose?