Thoughts while watching ST ELMO’S FIRE (a repost)

I wrote this post over twelve years ago, but right now there’s a documentary about The Brat Pack on Netflix that’s getting some talk on Teh Socials, and that’s leading to people re-watching Brat Pack movies, including this one. Reaction I’m seeing to people revisiting (or visiting for the first time) St. Elmo’s Fire is pretty amusing, because I’ve seen nobody enjoying it. Almost uniformly, people seem to be reacting the way I did back when I decided to re-watch the movie on a whim.

But before I get to the actual text, St. Elmo’s Fire did give us two good things, at least: the theme song (which is just a rock-solid 80s banger) and the Love Theme (which is a rock-solid 80s instrumental that I’m sure played at many a high school dance). The rest of the movie? Umm….

OK, and now, the post:

I decided to watch St. Elmo’s Fire, the coming-of-age flick from 1985 starring quite a bit of that group of actors known as “the Brat Pack”. I vaguely remember watching the movie way, way, way back in the late 80s or maybe early 90s. And by ‘watching’, I mean, ‘being in the room reading comic books while the movie was on the teevee’. So my recollection is, shall we say, rather hazy.

Turns out I shouldn’t have investigated those memories, because…well, that movie is Crap On Toast. Seriously. What garbage. I decided to try to make it bearable by mocking it on Facebook. Here are the things I posted:

So I’m watching “St Elmo’s Fire”, which I may well have never seen in its entirety. I’m about half an hour in. My plan is to watch until I encounter a character who isn’t an asshole. I’m gonna have to watch the whole movie, aren’t I?

(This was answered almost immediately by two friends saying, ‘Yes’. Ouch.)

Oh god…a scene with a welfare queen. This isn’t a movie about actual young people in the 80s, it’s about what William F. Buckley thought young people in the 80s were like.

(Few things have the ability to INSTANTLY piss me off like the whole ‘Welfare Queen’ stereotype, and this was it, in spades. A white woman with her five kids with her, all of different races, who keeps responding to her case worker’s attempts to interest her in job training with “Just gimme my check.”)

Obviously my memories of the 80s may not be entirely reliable, but I don’t recall women dressing either like streetwalkers or underneath at least four layers and buttoned up to the lower lip.

(Seriously, just look at the Mare Winningham character. She dresses like an cast extra on Little House: The Ever More Chaste Edition.)

If ever there was a person who just can’t wear an earring, it’s Rob Lowe.

(It’s an awful earring.)

Rob Lowe tries to get his hand under her (the Mare Winningham character) skirt…but he has to pull up about eight yards of fabric to get there!

(This just cracked me up. He literally has to move his hand back down like three times to get the skirt far enough up that he can get a hand under there. It’s like she has to walk around on stilts, just so her skirt isn’t dragging on the ground. And this is seconds after she reacts to Rob touching her breast as though he’s just zapped her with a cattle prod.)

Sweaty Rob Lowe is faking the hell out of that sax solo, I tell you! I keep waiting for CJ to walk up to him and say, “Sam, get your ass back to the office. Toby’s pissed at you.”

(A Georgetown bar is full of people rocking out to Rob Lowe on the sax as though he’s Kenny G Van Halen or something.)

This movie is dragging my lifelong crush on Ally Sheedy outside, where it plans to beat my poor crush to death with a tire iron.

(Every time Sheedy was onscreen, I was reminded of Harrison Ford’s great line from Working Girl, which he says to Melanie Griffith when she shows up at a function in a gorgeous dress: “You’re the first woman I’ve seen at one of these things who dressed like a woman, not how a woman thinks a man would dress if he were a woman.”)

Ahhh, the 80s…when eyeglasses were large enough to cover the vision span of four people!

(Holy shit, this movie has the Biggest Eyeglasses EVER.)

I have to think that anybody who has ever seen, oh, any movies at all takes one look at the city block that St Elmo’s Bar is on and immediately yelps out, “Hey! The Universal backlot!”

(Ayup. This really broke the illusion for me. All that location shooting, and they couldn’t do a couple of establishing shots someplace real?!)

Rob gets fired from his lucrative bar gig. Probably shouldn’t have attacked the guy who showed up with his wife.

But it’s all good, because he lets out a massive rant outside, gets kicked to the ground, and is well on his way to make-up sex within thirty seconds! Yay, him!

(This scene made no sense.)

Clearly the place to have a heart-to-heart with your friend is at the homeless shelter where she’s doing volunteer work. WHILE she’s doing volunteer work.

(Another really odd scene, with Demi Moore and Ally Sheedy showing up at Mare Winningham’s homeless shelter to give her life advice, which is basically, ‘Give in and make love to your boyfriend.’ OK then. Winningham is wearing a long skirt with a bib and shoulder straps, not unlike overalls, over a button-down shirt which is over a turtleneck. Were the entire 80s a study in layers?)

In this scene, Ally Sheedy is wearing a frilly bow tie under the incredibly frilly collar of a blouse that is in turn under a jacket that has a really frilly collar. Were the 80s the frill decade?

Rob’s having sex in a hot tub. Or at least he was. House owner got home early. Whoops. Hate when that happens.

(I thought that the producers had cast a Latino actor, named Mario Machado, as an Asian character. Turns out he’s of Chinese and Portuguese ancestry. So I was wrong.)

Emilio Estevez apparently believes, as do all movie men, that turning up the collar of their suit jacket has the same effect as opening an umbrella.

(I never understand this.)

Stalking Andie MacDowell is creepy on two levels. Because it’s stalking, and because it’s Andie MacDowell.

(Cheap shot, I know, but there’s just always been something about Andie MacDowell that’s just a bit ‘off’ for me. I have a terrible time with Four Weddings and a Funeral on that basis.

Wow…as Emilio goes in to confront Andie, we get the “Person who shot JR” POV shot, complete with people stopping and staring at him! Every movie should include a shot like that.

(Here’s what I’m talking about. This seemed a very odd stylistic choice for this movie.)

And for this she lets him go home with her?!

(I guess obsessive stalking wasn’t deemed creepy until that guy killed Rebecca Schaefer.)

Rob is starting to realize what a loser he is. Took him half the movie. Took me thirty seconds of the movie. Yay, me!

THIS is Emilio’s plan to win the heart of Andie MacDowell? Pretending to be rich?! Did we wander into a “Three’s Company” episode?

(Apparently she’s also stupid and will think that he’s become rich overnight. Great plan, this.)

I’d forgotten how in the 80s, all men wore neckties, but the men who weren’t to be taken seriously wore their ties so loose that the knot is eight inches below their collar.

(I hate neckties. They’re stupid.)

Ooh, I gotta stop. This movie is terrible. Ye Gods. I’m just gonna read the WikiPedia plot summary and call it a night on this one.

For the record, I gave up just after the party scene where Ally Sheedy accuses Judd Nelson of cheating on her. I just couldn’t even muster up enough emotional investment to make fun of the thing any more after that.

I really don’t have anything insightful to add about St. Elmo’s Fire. It just isn’t good. It’s annoying 80s fluff, the kind of thing that makes me wonder why so many people seem to fetishize that decade. I do like that title song and the synthesizer love theme, though. That’s good. But the movie? The Breakfast Club it ain’t.

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