Teen angst was a very popular subject in the mid-80s. John Hughes fattened his wallet on the backs of ageless actors who could easily transition from ‘adult’ roles to those of ‘high school students’ and back again. Hollywood dubbed them The Brat Pack. Personally, the only one of those movies that ever felt remotely real to me was The Breakfast Club; Pretty in Pink would be a close second. But, something odd happened 30 years ago this week. Joel Schumacher decided to age-up our teen characters and pose serious questions about what happens after school. Not just high school, no, they jumped straight to college graduation. I’ll tell you what…it wasn’t pretty. But, it did have a catchy theme song. With one of the worst tag lines in cinematic history, this week’s Throwback Thursday tribute belongs to St. Elmo’s Fire.
The heart of the teen angst films were always characters that you could somewhat relate to. They were awkward. They were misfits. They were struggling to figure out how to be comfortable in their own skin. They just wanted to be loved and to find their place in this world. St. Elmo’s Fire took all of that and threw it out the window. Suddenly, our main cast of friends consists of vapid, entitled, well-off, self-absorbed yuppies. They are all, for the most part, recent graduates of Georgetown University. They want to be politicians and architects and writers. They spend money like there is no tomorrow. And, they walk that fine line between adulthood and youthful immortality.
The actors in this movie are like caricatures of what it meant to be a twenty-something in the 80s. When Rob Lowe’s character promises “You’re not gonna believe how out of hand it’s gonna be” I believed him. Sadly, it never gets out of hand. Instead, it attempts to tackle ‘grown-up’ issues like being a parent, getting your own apartment, paying your bills, infidelity, and more. That’s entertainment, right? Thinking back on The Breakfast Club, I always imagined that St. Elmo’s Fire is what became of the ‘richies’ like Claire. Waaah…I have to get a job…waaah…Life is so hard. By the end of the movie the friends have realized that it is, indeed, time to be responsible. How do they accomplish this? By changing their favorite hangout. Not only did they graduate from college, these guys graduated from a bar to a restaurant that serves brunch, of all things. They graduate at life.
As much fun as it is to pick on this movie, and it is quite easy to do so, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it. To this day, both the theme song and the Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire make me happy. They bring back a flood of memories from a time in my youth when I thought being a member of the Brat Pack was a life goal. If it comes on the television, I will sit and watch it. St. Elmo’s Fire is full of the excess and ridiculousness that you would expect from an 80s movie. And, while panned by critics, I still believe it is worth a watch.
Stay tuned, for next week we’ll be taking it up to 88 miles per hour with Back to the Future.