Sony Pictures | 1985 | 108 mins | Rated R
Ah, the “Brat Pack. Those of us who grew up in the eighties remember them well. The term was often used to describe a group of young actors and actresses who frequently appeared together in teen-oriented coming-of-age films of the decade. Popularized by a 1985 New York magazine cover story, the group included such stars as Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy and Molly Ringwald. While some in the group such as Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez were known as much for their hard partying ways as their films, an appearance in either or both John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club and Joel Schumacher’s St. Elmo’s Fire is a prerequisite for being considered a full fledged member of the group.
St. Elmo’s Fire is essentially The Breakfast Club grows up. The Breakfast Club had been released just a few months earlier and starred Estevez, Nelson, and Sheedy. In The Breakfast Club, the actors played high school students along with Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald (the only other Brat Packers who aren’t in this movie) and went on to play college graduates in St. Elmo’s Fire. (Since they were all twenty-one or older, I’m sure this was a nice change of pace.)
The film revolves around seven friends who’ve just recently graduated from Georgetown. They all live in the Washington, D.C. area but call their old college haut, St. Elmo’s Bar, home. Alec (Judd Nelson) is a budding politician who changes his party affiliation in pursuit of more money; Leslie (Ally Sheedy) has just moved in with Alec but is having doubts about the relationship; Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) is a writer with a sullen personality, who is secretly in love with Leslie; Billy (Rob Lowe) is unable to hold a job but a talented saxophonist. He dreams of his college days before he was tied down with a wife and baby; The soft spoken Wendy (Mare Winningham) is from a rich family and struggles to get out from under her father’s (Martin Balsam) thumb and pursue her own dreams; Jules (Demi Moore), the consummate party girl, lives a carefree life that has her deep in debt; Kirby (Emilio Estevez) works as a waiter at St. Elmo’s and finds himself obsessed with hospital intern Dale Biberman (Andie MacDowell).
I suspect St. Elmo’s Fire might fail to resonate with movie watchers who didn’t grow up in the eighties, for the simple reason that the film is such a product of its time. Co-writer director Joel Schumacher (Batman) planted the film squarely in the 1980’s, with its attitude of yuppie self indulgence. None of the characters are particularly likable or has a problem that’s likely to connect with younger viewers. Maybe it’s because Schumacher and his co-writer Carl Kurlander were dealing with seven major characters but the screen play leaves a lot of details out and makes huge leaps in context. Here are a few examples: Kirbo goes from having an interrupted lunch date with Dale to stalking the woman, who then inexplicably invites him up to her apartment. Wendy and Billy’s relationship is clearly a case of good girl loves bad boy but the writers never define the characters and context of that relationship, so every scene with Lowe and Winningham has all the sexual heat of an awkward first date.
There’s no doubt that in 1985, the group of actors oft referred to as the “Brat Pack” worked well together and for those who grew up watching these films, seeing them again on Blu-ray should be fun. However, when I watched this film originally, I don’t remember thinking; these are characters I could care less about.
St. Elmo’s Fire comes to Blu-ray with a solid 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer. The delivers a strong color palette despite the film’s occasional mildly faded appearance. Though colors are bright yet naturally rendered throughout, several do tend to stand out above the rest — particularly those that tend to dominate the frame — for instance the flamboyant Jules’ red top or her apartment’s pink wall. The transfer is fairly sharp, with just a hint of softness on occasion. Close-ups of of faces don’t appear lifelike but the transfer retains a consistently moderate layer of grain throughout. Blacks and flesh tones hold up well. While not reference quality, visually, St. Elmo’s Fire is a solid Blu-ray catalogue release from Sony.
The audio is a robust Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. In the film’s opening minutes, dialogue tends to become lost under a deluge of music and sound effects. However, throughout much of the film, the dialogue may be heard clearly and distinctly throughout. The 80s music heard throughout blares at reference levels. Ambience is mixed; the recreation of the sounds that are scattered about the bar sometimes sound canned and unnatural, while at other times listeners will feel immersed in a rich, lifelike experience. While the track is occasionally too loud, this is a better-than-adequate track that should satisfy fans.
St. Elmo’s Fire comes with a solid slate of special features:
• Audio Commentary with Director Joel Schumacher. He talks about the inspiration for the film, assembling the cast, filming, the sets and various little tidbits. They guy speaks in an incredibly monotone voice.
• Joel Schumacher Remembers St. Elmo’s Fire (1080p, 14:21) features the director reiterates several of the same facts as discussed in the commentary, speaking briefly on: the origins of the project, shooting in scope, the wardrobe, the score, the assemblage of the cast and his disdain for the term “Brat Pack” and more.
• Original Making-of Featurette (480p, 8:03) is a vintage piece that features cast and crew sharing their thoughts on the movie’s themes, intercut with footage from the film
• “Man in Motion” by John Parr (480p, 4:21) Music video
• Deleted Scenes (480p, 15:41) 12 in all.
• BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) enabled.
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