Wednesday, December 28, 2011

St. Elmo's Fire & Friends

One of my most enjoyable movies from the '80s is St. Elmo's Fire, the 1984 brat-pack ensemble account of relationships among disparate friends. The movie has sometimes been criticized as being indulgent, and highly unrealistic. . . and truthfully, at times it is. However, I still get a lot of '80s retro pleasure out of watching this movie. Its one of those films I can put on and just let it run, knowing exactly what the next scene is, and what most of the dialogue will be.

I guess two things that I find so appealing about it are: First, that it is so very '80s, and '80s in a rather appealing way. The cinematography is actually quite beautiful at times, making use of the natural colors and beauty of the scenery of the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C.  And secondly, the positive and hopeful way that it presents post-college age youth. 

Of course, there are some highly unrealistic aspects of the movie. For example, just how did the Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy characters, supposedly recent college grads, afford such a spacious apartment? But at its best, St. Elmo's Fire resembled a hazy '80s dream of friendship, inhabited by quirky '80s personalities, soundtracked by catchy '80s music, and colored with vivid '80s colors.  

The '90s had its own version of the "group of cool friends" scenario, in the '90s TV show Friends. I've enjoyed watching Friends in part because it seemed to so resemble St. Elmo's Fire, and because Friends came along at just the exact time that I myself was going through the experience of being in my post-undergrad college years. It was good to see (again, however unrealistically) my own generation being portrayed as cool and hip.

 I must admit that, being the loner that I have often been, the notion of having such a close knit group of cool friends has been more of an ideal for me than reality. (I mean, don't get me wrong... I've had friends, but not many as close as these characters are portrayed to be.) But I still found it enjoyable to buy into the concept of being young, and hip, and able to come up with witty one liners during animated conversations at a college coffee shop.


  1. Oh, I loved 'Friends' and 'St. Elmo's Fire'. Totally indulgent, but hey--that's exactly why we watch films and shows like that, right? To get lost in an ideal of the times...

  2. ST. ELMO'S makes me want to be young again, as when I was 14 or so and it debuted. All the promise of life lay before me then: independence, adventure, and romance. I'd had a crush on Ally Sheedy since WARGAMES, and in ST. ELMO'S she is just as wholesome, winsome, and cute: the quintessential American girl that I wanted...and never found. Ah, to not only be young again, but young again in a world that was less vulgar and more optimistic.

  3. The Arch-Duke and Anonymous-- both of you have captured perfectly what was so wonderful about a movie like St. Elmo's Fire. Perhaps its just me getting older, but it seems like it was easier to dream about, and have ideals about, things (the future, one's life, etc.) back in the '80s, than today.