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St Elmo's Fire - DVD Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published August 7th 2018
Something decent from the 80s
Growing older has its ups and downs. The great things in life include having kids and watching them grow, having relationships that are actually deep and meaningful and having careers, not just jobs.

The downfalls, however, can be way too numerous.

Depending upon your frame of mind, you either miss the old days with a sense of nostalgia or you are filled with regrets over the things you didn't do… or did do.

But there are things that you can look back on and go… yeah, that was then.

Music is a great example. How many people who were 12 or 13 in the late 80s still dance along to Kylie Minogue's version of 'Locomotion'? A few, but, all of them? How many still pull out that Jason Donovan 45 and whack it on the stereo? That Bruce Willis CD get played any more? Really?

But what I'm going to look at is movies. Well, one particular movie. I was a teenager in the 1980s. The moves we watched were wide and varied, but it was a time when we went to the movies a lot. The films from that time I saw in the cinema have stuck with me and I often view them through the rose-tinted glasses of distance.

Quite a few of them, frankly, do not live up to my memories. The Breakfast Club, 16 Candles, Pretty in Pink, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Some Kind of Wonderful… none of them have lived up to the memory I have of them. Some are bad, but most are mediocre. Some others, like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, have their moments and are still enjoyable enough.

Then we come to St Elmo's Fire.
St Elmo's Fire, DVD, movie, brat pack
The Poster (Wikipedia)

(St Elmo's Fire – 1985, directed by Joel Schumacher; starring Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Mare Winningham. One of the so-called Brat Pack movies.)

At the time, this film depressed the hell out of me. I watched it and saw my future as being nothing like I'd hoped it would be, and vowed I wouldn't let myself fall into the trap these characters did.

I've watched it again and again over the years on TV, and each time I see a little more in it that intrigues me and makes me think.

Recently, I was given a copy of it on DVD. Guess what - I fell into the trap these characters did.

This film holds up remarkably well. The 1980s fashions are there in full-force, but that is easily overlooked by the storyline. This is a great film. Written by Joel Schumacher and Carl Kurlander, it perfectly captures the mood of people who are growing… not necessarily growing up, sometimes growing sideways, sometimes even backwards.

And now, as someone in my 40s, I look back and recognise myself in too many of the characters.

The breakdown of the relationship between the Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy characters, Demi Moore's character's deterioration, the Rob Lowe character almost refusing to grow up until it's forced on him, the Emilio Estevez character's bizarre obsession with the Andie MacDowell character, juxtaposed against the Andrew McCarthy character and his love for the Ally Sheedy character and Mare Winningham's character's love for Rob Lowe's character… it's intersecting stories and relationships meld into one masterful whole.

Yes, the characters are self-absorbed and show many attitudes that could be seen as negative. But they always struck me as real. They were people I knew, people I loved, people I met… they were me.

The break-up scene where Sheedy and Nelson argue over the music that's staying and going as a cover for their real emotions just rings so true… Coming together yet arguing while trying save Moore as her life falls apart is something I've been in the middle of… Doing something stupid to impress a girl I don't really know like Estevez is also something I have done (too often) in my past.

But the overall tale of life not going the way you always hoped it would go, and then being forced to make the best of what you've ended up with, is the over-arching theme. Sometimes we can get what we want, but is it what we really want? Is it worth it in the end?

This film gets a bad rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the critical reception at the time was generally negative. I don't care.

I like the film. I personally think people of my generation should re-watch it, and remember, and think about life and times past… and where we've come from… and where we've gone and where we're going…

And it has one of my favourite movie quotes of all time:
Estevez: "I always thought we'd be friends forever."
McCarthy: "Yeah, well forever got a lot shorter suddenly, didn't it?"

Plus John Parr's theme song is awesome!
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