the fresh films reviews

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St. Elmo's Fire (1985)

Joel Schumacher



St. Elmo's Fire

108 minutes

Lauren Shuler
Joel Schumacher
Carl Kulander

Cast includes:

Kirby Emilio Estevez
Billy Rob Lowe
Kevin Andrew McCarthy
Jules Demi Moore
Alex Judd Nelson
Leslie Ally Sheedy
Wendy Mare Winningham
Mr. Beamish Martin Balsam
Dale Biberman Andie MacDowell



Joel Schumacher's take on life as a young adult in the 1980s may have looked glitzy back in 1985, but in retrospect, the ostentatiousness that infused these characters and their misguided attempts at suddenly being grown-ups captures the essence of 1980s middle-class culture quite well. Their hang-up on superficiality and individualism makes most of these characters rather despicable, unlikable people, but as the film ultimately points out they're merely immature kids thrown into a world they've not been equipped to handle. And once Schumacher has stripped off their seemingly tough shells, we get a glimpse of the susceptible, potentially good human beings underneath. The irony, of course, is that the same analysis would be valid for most of the so-called Brat Pack actors populating this critically panned box-office success. Schumacher's fast-paced, quippy style is enjoyable, partly because he never gives you enough time to really dislike the film's characters for all their selfish antics. Instead, he keeps the film moving and is always prepared to give them another chance. The at first glance caricatured differences between our seven protagonists are alleviated by the complexity they turn out to have. That doesn't necessarily mean they're deep (this is the 80s, after all), but each of them are a compound of good and bad qualities. And it's refreshing to see with 2021 eyes that Schumacher doesn't rank their screw-ups from a moralizing point of view and pass judgement on them he just lets their failures come and go; lets them dissolve naturally. Yes, it's a flawed film, but it never claims not to be. With a brilliant, trendsetting soundtrack from David Foster and engaging performances from the cast.

Re-reviewed: Copyright 26.04.2021 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright 14.5.1997 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang