St. Elmo's Fire: The Film Industry's Take on GU


The Cast of St. Elmo's Fire.

The 80s gave us many great things: amazing fashion, mind blowing music, unforgettable hairstyles, but most importantly, it was the decade of coming of age films. The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles… all are timeless classics that resonate with teenagers everywhere.

This is where we encounter St. Elmo’s Fire. Also about growing up and becoming a real adult, it differs from the previous titles. Rather than focusing on teenagers struggling with high-school, it instead presents us with a group of recent college graduates and the difficulties they deal with. More specifically, it deals with the new life of Georgetown graduates and their transition from school to the real world.

We first encounter our seven characters at graduation, and watch as they stroll across the University of Maryland’s campus (Georgetown refused to grant filming rights to the crew, so they had to relocate), beaming at each other, thrilled at the prospect of finally being done with school. Fast forward a few months. The group is back together, still hanging out at St. Elmo’s Bar in Georgetown, which is loosely based off of our beloved Tombs.

Through the dialogue, the “Georgetown-ness” of the characters becomes more and more apparent; each individual represents a student we have all encountered at some point or another. We get to know Kirby, the aspiring lawyer and waiter at St. Elmo’s Bar, Kevin, the tortured, pessimistic writer with a bleak outlook on life, Billy, the frat star who does not really understand that college is over, Alec, the future politician who knows who to use and how in order to propel his career, Jules, an international banker known for her wild nights out, Leslie, Alec’s girlfriend who hopes to be an architect, and Wendy, a daddy’s girl from a wealthy family who desperately wants to help others.

Though set in the 80s, each character is still somehow present on campus. Many an Alec still interns on the Hill, hoping to one day be a senator. Billys continue the long standing tradition of frat parties. We all know a Kevin, pessimists who expect little from life but secretly hope to accomplish so much more.

But the comparisons do not end there. The issues that the film deals with are also ever present, being often on the minds of many a Georgetown student: finding jobs, paying the rent, struggling with mental health, even dealing with unrequited love. These are all fears we have and problems we deal with.

So has anything really changed? The answer is yes. While the general characters and struggles seem to remain, certain aspects of the bigger picture differ. The Alecs grow younger and younger, with freshmen already planning their post-college five year plans. Work experience plays a bigger role than it did before, as students are encouraged to seek out internships from the get go. And finding said jobs or internships seems a lot easier in the film than it does now; we watch Billy go through two or three respectable jobs, finding a new one only to ditch it a day after. And then there is the hair.

Well what is the point of this film today you might ask? Despite the small differences that actually make our present appear harder than theirs, the film does put forward important life lessons. As we watch Jules struggle with depression, drug abuse, and loneliness, the other characters provide moral support, eventually helping her out of her rough patch. Leslie realizes that she doesn’t need to rely on anyone else to be her own person. Kirby also comes to terms with his disdainful crush, realizing that he’s worth so much more. Alec, the former leader of Dems, questions his ideological affiliations until he eventually concludes that he might be a Republican. Even part animal Billy grows up and decides to be serious about life.

The film ends with the characters debating whether or not they should go to St. Elmo’s for a drinking. A unanimous “no” resounds as the bar is deemed too loud for their liking. Instead, they decide to have brunch. They have become adults, as breakfast food becomes more appealing than a night of drinking.


PC: Columbia Pictures

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