St. Elmo's Fire

Directed By: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Mare Winningham

"[T]his isn't real. You know what it is? It's St. Elmo's Fire. Electric flashes of light that appear in dark skies out of nowhere. Sailors would guide entire journeys by it, but the joke was on them... there was no fire. There wasn't even a St. Elmo. They made it up. They made it up because they thought they needed it to keep them going when times got tough, just like you're making up all of this. We're all going through this. It's our time at the edge. "
-Billy (Rob Lowe)

Many people say that high school is the toughest time of our lives.  The social pressures and anxieties are certainly not to be underestimated.  However, there are tougher times ahead in adulthood.  When you finally get out of school, get a job, and get bills, you get a pretty good idea of what the rest of your life looks like — adulthood minutiae.  Coming to terms with the reality that your life will be working and paying bills in an endless cycle for the next three or four decades is challenging to say the least, but it's something through which everyone must go.  Everybody must have their time on the edge, and Joel Schumacher tries to tell the story of a few young adults realizing that it's their time in St. Elmo's Fire.   He tries, but he fails.

Alec (Judd Nelson), Leslie (Ally Sheedy), Jules (Demi Moore), Kirby (Emilio Estevez), Wendy (Mare Winningham), Billy (Lowe), and Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) are seven recent graduates from Georgetown University and longtime friends.  Sometime after graduation, the group meets up at a local hospital after Billy and Wendy end up in a car accident.  No thanks to Billy's reckless drunk driving, the two have miraculously suffered no bodily harm.  However, all damage is not of a physical nature, and Wendy is reassessing whether her relationship with Billy is worth it.  Meanwhile, Kirby reunites with a doctor at the hospital by the name of Dale (Andie MacDowell).  Dale was the senior on whom he had a crush as a freshman at Georgetown, and Kirby has no intention of letting her become the one that got away.

Alec, a longtime Democrat, is looking to get a better-paying job.  To do so, he's got to cross the aisle and become a Republican.  In some misguided effort to become a more faithful partner to his girlfriend Leslie, Alec also decides to propose to her.  Their friend Kevin, an aspiring writer, has been harboring a secret love.  Soon, it will no longer be a secret, and it will certainly cause a few headaches.  Jules is also having trouble adjusting to adult life and is struggling financially.  For all these budding young adults, their troubles go away when the drinks start flowing at St. Elmo's Bar.

Under normal circumstances, we at Sobriety Test would openly embrace a film thematically developed around a bar.  We really should endorse a film with twenty-somethings where the bottles are popping and the drinks are flowing.  With St. Elmo's Fire, however, this is not the case, and you can attribute this to one simple fact.  St. Elmo's Fire is a Joel Schumacher film.  Everything in the movie is bland and lacks authenticity.  This coming-of-age flick is pretty stale which will leave you less than apathetic about these characters or their troubled lives.  The film's genuine lack of emotion certainly doesn't help either.  There's even a mixed bag of performances from the cast that will leave you less than impressed.

There are many things that just don't fit with St. Elmo's Fire.  The unrealistic plot developments, the cheesy sense of camaraderie amongst these friends, and the annoyingly repetitive score all fit the bill.  Many of the main story arcs for the film are absolutely pointless.  I know these young adults are struggling to find themselves, but some of their decisions make no sense whatsoever.  Judd Nelson's Alec ridiculously believes that marriage will make him more faithful to Leslie.  Emilio Estevez's Kirby and his stalker-like habits--sniffing Dale's pillows and watching her at parties--are just as nonsensical.

Beyond the unrealistic plot developments, these friends have a cheesy sense of camaraderie.  After graduating, these seven young adults are still attached at the hip as if they're new graduates.  No matter how close friends are, life pulls them apart in different directions as time goes by, and Schumacher never intelligently embraces this reality in the film.  Schumacher embraces some sugary idea of friendship amongst these Georgetown graduates that's only justified by nights out at the bar.  To make matters worse, Schumacher also recycles the same little jingle throughout St. Elmo's Fire every time he thinks he's done something special on screen.  The problem is that he's doing nothing special, so this music, which had very little meaning in the first place, only becomes more meaningless and irritating when repeatedly reused throughout the film.

Given his ensemble of Brat Pack actors, Schumacher really wastes some considerable talent and amplifies those who aren't so great in St. Elmo's Fire.  He misuses Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Emilio Estevez on their worthless storylines.  They give solid performances, but we have no reason to care because their stories are absolutely pointless.  On the flip side, atrocious performances from Demi Moore and Rob Lowe are amplified.  Demi Moore does not have the acting chops to pull off a character like Jules when she really needs to bring some emotional gravitas to the film.  When she cried, I laughed.  Her acting is just that bad.  Similarly, Rob Lowe gives a horrendous performance.  Not showing any growth or development in his character throughout the entire movie, he just makes a 180 at the end and gets the meaty quote used at the beginning of this review.  That's the quote for which this film will be remembered, and Schumacher puts his worst actor in the spotlight to deliver this.

St. Elmo's Fire is altogether a disappointing film.  Director Joel Schumacher really drops the ball.  While not his worst film (AKA Batman & Robin), it's far from his best.  The only thing they got right in this movie was the bar.  He may not realize it, but Schumacher is sending subliminal messages to everyone watching.  Get some drinks fast!  St. Elmo's Fire gets a 0.09% rating.  Have some Jack and Coke with this one.