In 1985, Columbia Pictures released Joel Schumacher’s coming-of-age-in-your-20’s drama, St. Emo’s Fire. The movie focuses on seven friends who have recently graduated from Georgetown University in D.C. The gang includes philandering Alec (Judd Nelson), his steadfast girlfriend Leslie (Ally Sheedy), moody Kevin (Andrew McCarthy), wild Jules (Demi Moore), reckless Billy (Rob Lowe), loyal to a fault Wendy (Mare Winningham), and infatuated Kirby (Emilio Estevez). Their post-grad year is filled with strife, heartbreak, laughter, and reluctant steps toward adulthood. The critics roasted the film, summing it up as a bunch of yuppies whining about having to face the real world. One writer even gave the actors the unflattering nickname, The Brat Pack. But the audience loved the movie, making it an 80s favorite. Let’s revisit St. Elmo’s Fire.
After college, Alec begins to pressure Leslie about marriage. When she puts him off, his next natural step is to begin cheating on her. Oh, ok. Kevin is also in love with Leslie, but since he can’t be with her, he stops having sex altogether. Hence, his moodiness. When the truth comes out about Alec’s cheating, Leslie flees to Kevin’s place. He confesses his love for her and they sex it up all over his apartment. Leslie keeps her pearl necklace on the entire time. That’s extremely yuppie. Alec unexpectedly comes over to see Kevin and Leslie smacks him in the face with the news that she slept with his best friend. Drama. After this all goes down, Kevin assumes he and Leslie will be a couple now, but she puts the brakes on that. It’s interesting because we get both guys’ points of view about what they want, but very little from Leslie. It’s not until the end of the movie when she tells Alec and Kevin that she’s not going to be with either one of them and is instead choosing herself, that we finally hear her side. It would have been nice to see more of this. Sidenote, since Kevin stopped sleeping with women, everyone thinks he’s gay. Jules even theorizes that he’s in love with Alec. That would have been a much more interesting storyline. Later, after they both realized Alec was an asshole, Kevin and Leslie could have become a 1985 Will & Grace.
Jules was wild in college, but after graduation she takes it to a new level. For one, she can’t manage her money. Who knew getting an advance on your salary was a thing? She maxes out her credit cards, buying clothes and garish home décor. There’s a terrifying giant ceramic clown head in one scene. Then she has the brilliant idea to start sleeping with her boss, which ultimately leads to losing her job. This is followed by a cocaine spiral. In a misguided suicide attempt, she locks herself in her apartment and opens all the windows, letting in the freezing cold air. The stupidity of this proves she’s really just crying out for help and not trying to end it all. Billy is able to comfort her back into reality. She tells him that she’s so tired. Yes, dear, adulting is hard. Now close your windows, find a new job, and get on with your life. Also, throw away that scary ass clown head.
This is the nuttiest story in the movie. Basically, Kirby went out on a date with Dale (Andie MacDowell) back in college. One date that led to nothing. Four years later, he runs into Dale. She barely remembers him, but Kirby is still hooked on her. This fixation escalates. He follows her to a party, where he creepily watches from the window. Then he crashes the scene and tells her he’s obsessed. No shit. Instead of calling the cops, Dale invites him over to her place. Girl, really? She tries to dissuade him from his infatuation. Instead, Kirby has tantrum, because things aren’t going his way and storms out. Later, he throws a big party to impress Dale, but she doesn’t show up. Incensed, he tracks her down at a cabin in the snowy mountains that she’s sharing with her boyfriend and throws another fit. Again, instead of calling the authorities on this psycho, she invites him in after his car gets stuck in the snow. The next day, when Dale is politely seeing Kirby off, he kisses her. Instead of telling her boyfriend to kick his ass, she actually swoons. WTF? Kirby speeds off, thrusting his fist in the air triumphantly. I truly cannot figure out what we’re supposed to think about this story. Stalking is romantic? If you pressure a woman enough into liking you, she’ll eventually cave? This behavior isn’t acceptable and yet everyone in the movie goes along with it. Not me!
Billy & Wendy
Out of everyone in the group, Billy has the hardest time letting go of college and stepping into the real world. It’s funny because he has the most adult attachments. A wife and baby. Instead of trying to gain some stability for them, he remains selfish and irresponsible. He loses jobs as soon as he finds them and gets drunk every night. He’d rather run around with his friends than grow up. It’s a sad Peter Pan situation. Wendy, unfortunately, enables Billy’s behavior. She’s in love with him and can’t call him out on his ridiculous behavior. Even after he gets drunk and totals her car, nearly killing her, Wendy forgives him. I found that plot point to be really stupid. But not as bad as Wendy offering her virginity to him. Sigh. So, Billy realizes he needs to get his shit together. He’s going to divorce his wife so she can be with a guy who actually wants to be a husband. And, Billy is moving to NY. If you can make it there…well he probably won’t. As a going away gift, Wendy gives him her V-card. Now, I know Billy is incredibly good looking (this is prime Rob Lowe hotness here), but he’s still a tool. He doesn’t deserve your “flower”, Wendy.
The theme song to the movie, “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” is pretty awesome. It incorporates the themes of the movie (growing up, finding your future) in one jazzy-pop-rock moment. Plus, the video, starring singer John Parr and his enormous fluffy hair, is perfectly 80s.