Picks and Pans Review: St. Elmo's Fire

updated 07/01/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/01/1985 01:00AM

Posing as a kind of Medium-Size Chill, this ensemble comedy takes an emotionally charged moment—that purgatory between graduation and assimilation into the Real World—and mutilates it. Living in Washington, D.C., seven friends are four months out of Georgetown. Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson face-off as an upscale couple whose romance is poisoned by pal Andrew McCarthy's infatuation with Sheedy. Demi Moore vamps as the group's token tramp and Mare Winningham demurs as the token virgin, whom Rob Lowe is determined to deflower. Emilio Estevez is saddled with an improbable subplot about his obsession with an older woman. But St. Elmo's Fire never gets the everyday details right, let alone the emotions. These kids drink brandy instead of beer. They live in exotic apartments suited to Hollywood art directors. When Sheedy sighs, "I wish everything could be like it was—all of us friends," the audience laughs. What are these people pining for—the distant past of four months ago? Director Joel Schumacher, who co-wrote the anecdotal script with newcomer Carl Kurlander, proved with The Incredible Shrinking Woman that he's a set decorator masquerading as a moviemaker. His film is also intolerant of anyone who isn't a yuppie. Bag ladies, welfare mothers and Koreans, among others, are indiscriminately insulted. The script ambushes its actors, too. Only Sheedy, McCarthy and, particularly. Winningham acquit themselves admirably. Lowe's preening sabotages his character, although his feminine features aren't making the transition into adult roles any easier. The conspicuously mediocre Nelson, as an ambitious congressional aide, overplays as much as he did in The Breakfast Club. As the jealous lover in the juvenile Jules and Jim subplot, he shouts at Sheedy, "Wasted love!"—and you're reminded of high school Strindberg. St. Elmo's Fire comes off as an expensive edition of Let's Play Dress Up, and it unwittingly puts its stars' careers in a scary position. Time and again, these players seem to be unable to act their ages. (R)

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