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St. Elmo's Fire Reviews

This glib, insubstantial soap opera is emblematic of Hollywood in the mid-1980s. Its blow-dried, youthful stars enjoyed fame and notoriety as members of the so-called "Brat Pack." Four months after graduation seven Georgetown University pals still stick together, often patronizing St. Elmo's Bar, a campus hangout. The narrative opens when an emergency brings the whole gang to a hospital: Billy Hixx (Rob Lowe), a bad-boy musician pining for his estranged wife, has been in a drunken car accident with his steady date, plain-looking blueblood Wendy Beamish (Mare Winningham). Law student Kirby Kager (Emilio Estevez) bails the pair out with legal doubletalk. In the process, he glimpses Dale Biberman (Andie MacDowell), a distant freshman crush, now a doctor. Though she barely remembers him, Kirby keeps pursuing her. Meanwhile, Billy loses a string of jobs secured for him by classmate Alec Newberry (Judd Nelson), a former student Democrat who has signed on with a Republican campaign. Politics isn't the only arena in which Alec is faithless--he compulsively cheats on his cohabiting lover Leslie (Ally Sheedy), even as he begs her to marry him. "Love sucks" is the observance of Kirby's cynical roommate Kevin (Andrew McCarthy), a writer restless in his entry-level newspaper position. Kevin secretly carries a torch for Leslie, but his celibate state only convinces the group's party girl Jules (Demi Moore) that he's a closet homosexual. Jules even tries to fix Kevin up with the interior decorator of the luxury apartment she can't afford on her bank-clerk salary. Ultimately, Billy realizes he can't save his marriage. Leslie refuses Alec's wedding proposal because of his philandering. Exiled from their apartment, Leslie finally shares a night of bliss with Kevin, an act that drives Alec into a jealous fury. Kirby finally confronts Dale and a man--evidently her husband--at a vacation cabin. After one long, stolen kiss from Dale, Kirby seems cured of infatuation and returns to D.C. It takes another crisis to reconcile the friends, when Jules, newly-unemployed, bereaved, and deep in debt and cocaine, breaks down and needs a communal hug. Afterward, Billy departs for New York. Symbolizing newfound maturity, the remaining chums decide to dine elsewhere than St. Elmo's. Cowriter and director Joel Schumacher keeps things moving, skipping adroitly from one narrative thread to another. Well he should, since it's unlikely any of the subplots could have stood on their own, and very few penetrate deeper into the human condition than the average magazine advertisement. From Kirby's bizarre stalking of Dale to Jules' harmless comeuppance for a decadent lifestyle, themes and messages are spelled out like fashion-magazine headlines. Small wonder that Andrew McCarthy's Kevin, always ready to cut through the kitsch with a disgusted put-down, becomes the character with whom the weary viewer most identifies, although Winningham brings some conviction to her almost cartoonishly homely character. There's a resemblance to THE BIG CHILL (1983), Lawrence Kasdan's Woodstock Generation elegy, in the concept of post-graduate disillusionment. The difference is that Kasdan's characters took two decades to grow apart from each other. One can't imagine the motley St. Elmo's septet hanging together at one single frat party, let alone over the years that has preceded the plot line. Wendy is a wealthy waif who seeks fulfillment doing charity work; Billy is a working-class beer-guzzler in a vague Bruce Springsteen-ish pose; his de facto guardian Alec is a high-flying yuppie. No dorm could be big enough to hold these stereotypes. Yet, possibly because most of the actors were popular teen idols in transition to adulthood, ST. ELMO'S FIRE struck a chord for 1980s moviegoers, especially underaged fans eager for a vicarious taste of grown-up hijinks in a glamorous locale. The movie was a hit, and its popular soundtrack album also guaranteed years of heavy radio airplay for the catchy (but desperately overused) "Love Theme from St. Elmo's Fire" (written and performed by David Foster) and the pseudo-rockin' hit "Man in Motion" (written by David Foster and John Parr, performed by John Parr). (Profanity, sexual situations, adult situations, substance abuse, violence.)