St. Elmo's Fire is a 1985 American coming-of-age film directed by Joel Schumacher. The film, starring Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Mare Winningham, centers on a group of friends, recent graduates of Georgetown University, and their adjustment to their post-university lives and the responsibilities of encroaching adulthood. The film is a prominent movie of the Brat Pack genre.
|St. Elmo's Fire|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joel Schumacher|
|Produced by||Lauren Shuler Donner|
|Written by||Joel Schumacher
|Music by||David Foster|
|Cinematography||Stephen H. Burum|
|Edited by||Richard Marks|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|June 28, 1985|
Recent Georgetown University graduates Alec (Judd Nelson), his girlfriend Leslie (Ally Sheedy), Kevin (Andrew McCarthy), Jules (Demi Moore), and Kirby (Emilio Estevez) are waiting to hear about the conditions of their friends Wendy (Mare Winningham), a sweet-natured girl devoted to helping others, and Billy (Rob Lowe), a former frat boy and now reluctant husband and father, after a minor car accident. At the hospital, Kirby sees a female medical student named Dale (Andie MacDowell), with whom he has been infatuated since college.
The group gathers at their favorite college hangout, St. Elmo’s Bar. Billy has been fired from the job that Alec helped him secure, and his marriage is unstable. At their apartment, Alec pressures Leslie to marry him, but she thinks that they aren’t ready. Kirby is telling Kevin of his love for Dale when Billy shows up, asking to spend the night as he cannot deal with his wife. Jules accuses Kevin of being gay and loving Alec. When Kevin visits Alec and Leslie for dinner, Alec confesses to him that he had sex with a lingerie saleswoman.
Billy and Wendy get drunk together, and Wendy reveals that she’s a virgin. They kiss, and Billy makes fun of her girdle. Wendy insists they just remain friends because she thinks that he’s trying to take advantage of her. At St. Elmo’s, Jules reveals to Leslie that she is having an affair with her married boss. Billy sees his wife with another man in the crowd and attacks him. Billy is thrown out of the bar but reconciles with his wife. The girls confront Jules about the affair and her reckless spending, but she insists that everything is under control.
Kirby takes a job working for Mr. Kim, a wealthy Korean businessman, and invites Dale to a party that he’s holding at Mr. Kim’s house. Wendy arrives with Howie, a boy that her parents set her up with. Alec announces that he and Leslie are engaged, upsetting Leslie. She confronts him about her suspicions of his infidelity, and the two break up. Alec accuses Kevin of confessing to Leslie. Jules gives Billy a ride home, and Billy makes a pass at her. Furious, Jules throws him out of her car, and Billy’s wife witnesses the confrontation.
When Dale skips the party, Kirby drives to the ski lodge where she is staying but learns she has a boyfriend. His borrowed car gets stuck, and Dale and her boyfriend invite him in. The next morning, as Kirby prepares to leave the lodge, Dale tells him that she’s flattered by him. He kisses her, and then takes a photo with her before leaving.
Leslie goes to Kevin’s apartment to spend the night after the breakup and discovers photographs of her. Kevin confesses his love for her, and the two sleep together. Alec goes to the apartment to apologize to Kevin and finds Leslie there, and the Alec and Leslie argue.
Wendy tells her father that she wants to be independent and move into her own place. Jules has been fired from her job, fallen behind on her credit card payments, and her possessions have been seized. Jules locks herself in her apartment and opens the windows, intending to freeze to death. Her friends attempt to coax her out, but she is unresponsive. Kirby fetches Billy, who landed a job at a gas station courtesy of Kevin, to calm Jules down. Billy convinces Jules to come out.
Wendy moves into her own place, where Billy visits and informs her that he is getting a divorce and moving to New York City, and the two have sex. At the bus station, the group gathers once more to say goodbye to Billy. Billy urges Alec to make up with Leslie, but Leslie declares that she does not want to date anyone for a while. Alec and Kevin make up, and the group decides to get brunch. However, they decide not to go to St. Elmo's and instead choose Houlihan's because there are "not so many kids" there.
According to Schumacher, "a lot of people turned down the script...the head of [one] major studio called its seven-member cast "the most loathsome humans he had ever read on the page." The producers interviewed "hundreds of people" for the cast, including Anthony Edwards and Lea Thompson. According to Lauren Shuler Donner, she found Estevez, Nelson, and Sheedy through recommendations from John Hughes, who had cast them in The Breakfast Club; Schumacher said he had to "push hard" to get the studio to agree to cast the three. Demi Moore had to go to rehab before shooting.
Georgetown University would not permit filming on campus, administrators citing questionable content such as premarital sex. As a result, the university seen on film is the University of Maryland located 10 miles away in College Park, Maryland.
|“||St. Elmo's Fire isn't drama, it's gossip, and peculiarly early-adolescent gossip— a movie designed to be picked apart on the telephone. The turbidly self-important treatment of these vacuous college graduates, each one a 'type', is like a TV sitcom without jokes. St. Elmo's Fire is so depressing a portent of Hollywood's teen sycophancy because it not only devotes itself to stupid kids, it accepts their view of the world without any real criticism....The sole survivor of the general disaster is Ally Sheedy, who manages to make something charming out of the yup petulance.||”|
According to Janet Maslin:
|“||In the realm of films about close-knit bands of school friends, St. Elmo's Fire falls midway between The Big Chill and The Breakfast Club. Its characters are old enough to enjoy the first flushes of prosperity, but still sufficiently youthful to keep their self-absorption intact. But soon enough, they will be forced to give up their late-night carousing at a favorite bar and move on to more responsible lives. In the film's terms, which are distinctly limited, this will mean finding a more sedate hangout and learning to go there for brunch....St. Elmo's Fire is most appealing when it simply gives the actors a chance to flirt with the camera, and with one another. When it attempts to take seriously the problems of characters who are spoiled, affluent and unbearably smug, it becomes considerably less attractive.||”|
In a 2015 retrospective review, Justin Gerber of Consequence of Sound said that he was "prepared to say it’s the worst movie of all time, with all the necessary stipulations lined up and accounted for," going on to criticize the characters, plot, set, direction, and even score.
The theme song "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" was written by Canadian composer/producer David Foster and English musician John Parr, and also performed by Parr. The song was written for the Canadian athlete Rick Hansen who, at the time, was traveling around the world via his wheelchair to raise awareness for spinal cord injuries, a trip called the "Man in Motion Tour." The song did not appear on any Parr album until Letter to America was released in July 2011.
"St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart for two weeks in September 1985, and "Love Theme from St. Elmo's Fire" (the instrumental theme to the movie by David Foster) reached No. 15. Another version of the "Love Theme from St. Elmo's Fire" with lyrics, titled "For Just a Moment", was performed by Amy Holland and Donny Gerrard, and was included as the final song on the soundtrack album.
In August 2009, Sony Pictures Television received a "script commitment with a penalty attached to it" to adapt the film into a television series, which would "use the movie as a takeoff point and as an inspiration as it introduces six new friends: three boys and three girls." Topher Grace and Gordon Kaywin of Sargent Hall Productions proposed the idea to Jamie Tarses; the three of them then recruited Dan Bucatinsky to write the pilot and got Schumacher to agree to the idea.