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Film / St. Elmo's Fire

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St. Elmo's Fire is a 1985 coming-of-age film about seven friends who start to drift apart after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C..

Directed by Joel Schumacher, the movie stars Brat Pack members Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, and Mare Winningham as the main characters, with Andie MacDowell, Martin Balsam, Joyce Van Patten and Jenny Wright playing supporting roles.

The film's theme song, "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motionnote )", performed by John Parr, was a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The film also contains an instrumental love theme by David Foster.

This film provides examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: At least, Wendy does.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Well, some of it.
  • All There in the Script:
    • Jules is the only person of the seven central characters in the cast whose last name is never mentioned in the movie. Her full character name is Julianna Van Patten according to the movie's screenplay.
    • Leslie is committed to her career in the movie, but the only hint of what that career might be is a scene in which she is sitting at a drafting table. The original screenplay expanded on her desire to move up in the world of architecture.
  • Always Save the Girl: During Jules' breakdown towards the climax both Billy and Kirby are so desperate to rescue her that they completely ignore Kevin's cries for help as he is being dangled over a railing by Alec! Given that at that point Jules was in danger of getting cold and Kevin was in danger of falling to his death, their priorities may have been slightly warped. Fortunately Leslie was quick to intervene on his behalf.
  • AM/FM Characterization:
    • Jules has a Billy Idol painting in her apartment.
    • As Leslie leaves Alec, they argue about which records she takes:
    Alec: You cannot have Pretenders' first album! That's mine.
    Leslie: I bought it.
    Alec: You did not! You can have all the Billy Joels...except The Stranger (Album).
    Leslie: I'm taking Thriller and Mahler's ninth.
    Alec: Kevin is so fond of Mahler.
    Leslie: I moved in with Jules.
    Alec: Oh how nice, roomies again...No Springsteen is leaving this house! You can have all the Carly Simons...You're not taking The Police.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Leslie between Kevin (Betty) and Alec (Veronica). Subverted in that she had a long relationship with Alec before Kevin and in the end doesn't choose either one of them.
    • Wendy between Howie (Betty) and Billy (Veronica). She admits to being in love with Billy but doesn't end up with either one either.
    • Billy between Wendy (Betty) and Felicia (Veronica). Subverted in that Felicia is his wife and mother of his kid while hooking up with Wendy would be an affair.
  • Camp Gay: Ron, Jules's neighbor and decorator.
  • Cool Car: Wendy's father attempts to bribe her into marrying Howie with a Chrysler LeBaron.
  • Credit Card Plot: Played straight: Jules gets in serious trouble for her overspending habits and her liberal usage of several credit cards; she ends up having most of her stuff repossessed.
  • Crowd Song: Everyone in the bar singing John Chilton's "Give Her a Little Drop More."
  • Date Rape Averted: Billy's actions towards Jules when she drives him home skirt extremely close to attempted rape, although he doesn't seem to realise it in his drunken state. The only consequences are that she doesn't confess her secret to him and his wife loses all hope for their reconciliation.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Wendy's father disapproves of her love for Billy.
  • Destructive Romance: Billy gets into a shouting match (and nearly a brawl) in public with his wife. Then they cry and embrace. After a few more go-arounds of begging for forgiveness, they eventually split up.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Leslie doesn't end up with either Alec or Kevin, Kirby doesn't end up with Dale, and, despite spending the night together, Billy and Wendy don't end up together.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: Alec and Leslie argue over who gets to keep which records in their apartment.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: What Kirby thinks he is (via the Spectacular Displays). Kevin is more the Low-Key Yearning type, who has never told the object of his affections how he feels because she's taken.
  • Double Standard: Invoked while Leslie and Alec break up.
    Alec: You fucked Kevin.
    Leslie: You fucked many!
    Alec: Nameless, faceless many.
    Leslie: I feel much better now. Thanks.
  • Drunk Driver: The film opens with the aftermath of a car crash involving Billy and Wendy caused by the former driving while drunk.
    Alec: You're being arrested for drunk driving.
    Billy: Drunk definitely, I don't know if you could call it driving.
  • Family Business: Wendy's parents want her to marry soon so her husband can be put in charge of one or more of the family's greeting card shops.
  • Family Versus Career: Leslie is hesitant to marry Alec because she wants to focus on her career for the time being. He dismisses her ambitions.
  • Fetishized Abuser:
    • Alec comes across as this given that he's constantly trying to push marriage onto Leslie and even goes ahead and announces it as happening without asking her. Then there's his justifying his screwing around because of Leslie's refusal of marriage. Everyone else has Alec and Leslie as the epitome of romantic love.
    • Billy is a picture-perfect example given that he's an ass to pretty much all of his girlfriends and his wife. Wendy gets off the lightest but still has to deal with some of his crap.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The guys: Kevin is phlegmatic (polite but reserved and indecisive), Billy is sanguine (an outgoing ladies' man, but emotionally unstable), Alec is choleric (confident at the cost of being quite arrogant), and Kirby is melancholic (lamenting and pining for Dale even when it's clear it's not going to happen).
  • Freudian Trio: Jules (Id), Leslie (Superego), Wendy (Ego)
  • The Friends Who Never Hang: For a film about a group of True Companions, some of the friends don't seem to interact one-on-one very much. Kirby, for example, doesn't seem to spend much time with Wendy or Jules.
  • Gold Digger:
    • How Jules perceives herself at times, especially in light of her sleeping with her boss.
      "So, I bop him for a couple of years, get his job when he gets his hands caught in the vault, do a black mink ad, retire in utter disgrace, then write a bestseller and be the fabulous host of my own talk show..."
    • A comment from Dale leads Kirby to believe (incorrectly) that she is one, which is the reason she won't date him. He immediately sets out to earn some more.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Wendy is every bit as kind as she is blond. She's a welfare worker and regularly volunteers at a soup kitchen. Its because of this that she chooses not to live lavishly despite having the means to do so.
  • Heroic BSoD: Jules, after losing her job and virtually everything she owns. She locks herself in her apartment, opens all the windows, and sits in front of them in a Troubled Fetal Position, hoping that perhaps she might freeze to death.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Naomi, one of Kevin's friends, is a hooker who gives him some insights about love.
  • Hypocrite: Alec repeatedly cheats on Leslie for who knows how long during their relationship. When she sleeps with Kevin, he sees no problem with constantly reminding her of it.
    • Billy likewise is a horrible husband and cheats on his wife at every opportunity, yet the one time he sees her with another man he goes positively ape shit! He even has the gall to call her a slut!
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: When Leslie questions his 'extracurricular activities', Alec attacks Kevin, assuming that he told Leslie about Alec's cheating. She then points out that no one told her and she didn't know for sure until he reacted like that.
  • Informed Attribute: Alec and Leslie's relationship is apparently so perfect that everyone and their mother can't stop gushing about it. The few times we see them alone, however, show us that they have very little in common and while Leslie is interested in Alec's career and interests he's never shown any enthusiasm for her job or interests. Surprisingly they don't last.
  • Jewish and Nerdy: Howie.
  • Larynx Dissonance: Kevin's falsetto while singing along to Aretha Franklin.
  • Lingerie Scene: Leslie tries on the nightgown that Alec buys for her.
  • Local Hangout: St. Elmo's Bar.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Jules is a deconstruction.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Billy, Wendy, Howie, Felicia, and Felicia's unnamed date to the Halloween party.
  • Love Triangle: Alec, Leslie, Kevin.
  • Manchild: Billy, who's still stuck in his college golden years.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Kevin, by Jules and Naomi. Jules bases it solely on the fact that he's never hit on her; she even tries to set him up with another man. He's actually in love with Leslie.
  • Monochrome Casting: As Gene Siskel pointed out, all the main characters are white and the only minorities in the film are a black prostitute and a Korean mobster.
  • Never My Fault: Alec constantly blames his cheating on Leslie's refusal to marry him, to the point he kicks her out of their apartment when she discovers his infidelity, and later blames Kevin for "stealing" Leslie when it was Alec's actions that destroyed their relationship.
  • Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation: The only reason we know that Leslie is an architect is because she is seen working at a drafting table once.
  • Of Corsets Funny: Billy makes fun of Wendy for wearing a girdle.
  • Perverted Sniffing: Kirby takes a whiff of Dale's pillow.
  • Pink Is Feminine: Jules's apartment is almost 100% pink.
  • Redemption Failure: Billy promises his wife that he will change his wild ways for the sake of her and their daughter. This works out so badly that he leaves town while she marries a better man.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Jules's apartment is a complete mess towards the end.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Happens to Wendy at the very end.
  • Sexy Sax Man: Billy.
  • Shower of Love: Between Kevin and Leslie. They break the shower screen.
  • Shotgun Wedding: It seems pretty clear that Billy and Felicia only got married because of an accidental pregnancy.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Kevin, for Leslie.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Jules.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Title: Billy's band, Billy Hixx and the New Breed, whose songs have more sax solos than lyrics.
  • Staging an Intervention: Zig-zagged. Jules thinks she and Leslie are staging one for Wendy, as they are concerned about her relationship with Billy. In fact, Leslie and Wendy are staging one for Jules, as they are concerned about her affair with her boss and her obsession with her stepmother's imminent death.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Kirby, as far as med student Dale is concerned. He starts out seeing himself as a Dogged Nice Guy who just can't get a break. Later on, he, uh, embraces the truth, while Dale seems to think his actions (watching her through a window, sniffing her pillow, tracing her to a remote location) are perfectly acceptable.
    "I'm obsessed, thank you very much."
  • Strawman Political: Alec, who ditches his liberal viewpoint after graduation since being a Republican apparently gets him more money.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: Leslie (wife), Wendy (child), Jules (seductress).
  • Title Drop: "You know what this is? This is St. Elmo's Fire."
  • Troubled, but Cute: Billy, especially in Wendy's eyes, although she does try to break their rather toxic relationship at one point.
  • True Companions: The seven main characters, whose friendship bond is the anchor of the whole movie. They show this best when coming to Jules' rescue when she's in a predicament at the end of the movie, though Wendy isn't present at the time.
    Leslie: I can't remember who met who first... or who fell in love with who first. All I can remember is the seven of us, always together.
  • Unconfessed Unemployment: Jules, after she's been fired.
  • Verbal Business Card:
    Alec: Alec Newbury with Congressman Langston's office, if I can be of any assistance.
  • Wall Bang Her: Alec's tryst with a lingerie saleswoman takes place up against a three-way mirror.
  • Wine Is Classy: Kirby is determined to order a bottle that will impress Dale, cost be damned.
  • Writer's Block: Kevin knows he wants to write something more profound than obituaries; he just doesn't know what until the end of the film, when he finally publishes an op-ed.
  • You Just Told Me: Leslie accuses Alec of cheating on her. When Alec responds by punching Kevin and accusing him of telling Leslie, Leslie reveals that she didn't actually know, she just suspected.
  • You Need to Get Laid:
    • Wendy, according to at least one of the women she tries to help out as a social worker. By the end of movie, she does.
    • Kevin, according to Kirbo.