Play It Again – St. Elmo’s Fire

Play It Again – St. Elmo’s Fire. Starring Mare Winningham, Rob Lowe, and Demi Moore. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Rated M. By Jess Lomas.

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

This month, we’re setting a fire under the Brat Pack. 

What happens after college graduation? Can you maintain those friendships built on keg parties and dorm roommates? How do you navigate building careers and relationships while trying to hold onto the past? Joel Schumacher tackles the challenges of the early-twenties set in St. Elmo’s Fire as he attempts to cash in on mid-eighties success of the Brat Pack.

Wallflower Wendy (Mare Winningham) is a social worker with a crush on wild boy Billy (Rob Lowe), a womanising sax player who can’t hold down a job. Alec (Judd Nelson) is the group’s hero, always stepping in to rescue his friends while building his political career and cheating on his girlfriend Leslie (Ally Sheedy). Then there’s Leslie’s college roommate Jules (Demi Moore), who’s out of control and begins to lean too heavily on recreational drugs. Aspiring writer Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) has had a crush on Leslie since college, but being best friends with Alec has always prevented him from speaking his true feelings. Kevin’s roommate is Kirby (Emilio Estevez), who can’t decide between post grad Law or Medicine, as he chases a young doctor he went to college with, Dale (Andie MacDowell).

The film is a glorious testament to the 1980s, both in attitude – Moore’s character defining the decade as an opportunity to sleep with her boss and turn the affair into a bestselling novel and a gig on her own talk show – and in costume and setting. The characters are decidedly caricatures, and yet the performances from this strong cast are enough to keep you interested in their individual plights. Considering Sheedy, Nelson, and Estevez’s other 1985 collaboration, The Breakfast Club, it’s a stark contrast to a day in high school detention, with issues of drug and alcohol abuse, infidelity, and the search for identity being undertaken.

“We’re all going through this. It’s our time at the edge.” So says Billy at one point in the movie before the friends, at the ripe old age of 22, decide to swap their nightly drinks at the local bar, St Elmo’s Fire, for a laid-back Sunday brunch.

St. Elmo’s Fire is available on DVD and can be streamed via Quickflix.

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