I best come clean. This won’t be a film review like those I’ve previously done. Most definitely it will not even look like a conventional film review like you will get if you read, say The New York Times or The Guardian.
It’s just that after more than three decades, I’ve finally caught up this week with the one remaining Brat Pack film I somehow never got around to watching.
And though I truly never expected to, the minute the DVD started playing the end credits, and that haunting tune by David Foster began to serenade me, I found myself rushing to my laptop to bang out on my keyboard these words. And to do it fast before I lose my nerve and the feelings that welled up in me after watching it.
Welcome to, for want of a better label, my film review of “My Baptism of Fire”. Oops, I mean “St Elmo’s Fire“!
But first, a stroll down my memory lane
Okay, just in case you’re not born in the ’70s and ’80s please forgive me now if I take you down my memory lane for a bit.
You see, growing up during those decades, I was just another teenager looking for life’s meaning and searching along the way for like-minded friends and companions to do the same. Pop culture and what’s trending played a big part in all of that, especially when it came to my twin loves — music and movies.
Say what you will, but for time immemorial these transcend language barriers and unite people everywhere in ways that really need few words and even fewer long-winded explanations.
From The Bee Gees and The Carpenters, to Cyndi Lauper and David Bowie. From Star Wars and Saturday Night Fever, to Fame and Top Gun. Every single one of these defined the ’70s and ’80s for many, but especially me.
Growing up pretty much with me, myself and I for company back then, those were my constant companions.
And they never disappointed.
They gave me a sense I was not alone. A sense the world was vast, yet at the same time hope for a connection with someone still possible. And that connection might just be sparked by a music or movie we both liked.
And life can end up nicely-wrapped in pink ribbons. Or not. Either way it’s okay. No one promised me a rose garden anyway (wait, that line’s from before the ’70s — oops!)
What they taught me
The important lesson these music and movies all shared in common was this — bad things happen and that’s life. But even if you can’t or haven’t figured it out yet, life’s still worth the living.
I know I know. Cliche, even kitschy. But oh what a soothing balm for the hot and bothered teen that was me, wrestling with the vicissitudes of life back then (and now too!).
Unlike well-meaning but often clueless adults around me, these music and movies didn’t so much preach to me as stood by me and my foibles. They remind me life is going to throw one curve ball after another at us, whether we like it or not. And oftentimes, those very curve balls are the very crazy nonsensical decisions we make as young adults fresh out of college, or maybe still in college.
I love how the characters in these song lyrics or silver screen stories were messed up and even blind about how they felt, and how they loved and lived. Just like me.
And watching or listening to them, how I yearned to have the companions these both glamorous and not-so glamorous protagonists had. Cos isn’t that what we all want as teenagers? Friends, or better still, BFFs?
The stiff-collar grown up adult world
But the grown-up world has a way of telling us to behave this way, score that career, marry this person, have X number of kids, live in a mansion, and make sure you drive a Buick or whatever fancy-schmancy so long as you can hold your chin up in high society, yet appear sufficiently self-deprecating.
So after all that puffery, it’s such a welcome change to watch something like “St Elmo’s Fire” and realise there’s really no one-size-fits-all prescribed formula for everyone.
It’s just living the life that, well, life dishes to you and I. And trying to make the best of it no matter how many times we fall flat on our fannies.
Will we get it wrong? Oh you bet! But does it matter if we do? How about if we just pick ourselves up and start all over again? What’s wrong with that?
Which is what movies like “St Elmo’s Fire” does for me. It’s uncompromisingly honest. It’s direct and unflinching in the way it tells it like it is. And the ending isn’t always perfect with all loose ends tied up neatly in a bow.
Sounds just like real life doesn’t it?
Some may say such films can be a little navel gazing and self indulgent, but good grief what’s wrong with that if it leads to transcendence? To understanding what living in the daily minutiae we call ‘Life’ is all about?
Better still if it’s brought to us with the help of some eye candy huh?
“St Elmo’s Fire” but, more importantly, the Brat Pack!
Okay okay I hear you asking: “Are we at the film review part yet?”
Now I did warn you this wasn’t going to be MY typical film review; not even A typical film review.
But to answer you, I have to first tell you about a film genre that rocked the movie scene in the ’80s. All thanks to the foresight (or maybe more appropriately the insight) of one film director by the name of John Hughes.
Now you can Google him yourself (or just click his name in my previous line) but John was one of the first to recognise there weren’t any Hollywood movies in the ’80s done from the POV of teens and young adults themselves. So he saw a market gap just waiting to be plugged.
The best part was how one or more of the eye candy actors that were collectively called the Brat Pack (thanks to NYT writer David Blum in an article he wrote back in ’85) could be found in one or more of John’s movies. People like Molly Ringwald, Eric Stolz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr. Not forgetting of course stuff by another filmmaker Joel Schumacher, namely “St Elmo’s Fire” which starred Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Rob Lowe.
Every one an eye candy!
Go watch it ok? More importantly, google about life in the ’80s
So if you’ve never watched St Elmo’s Fire but hoped I would give you a rundown of it here, sorry. I’ll have to let you down.
I would however prefer you go watch for yourself the DVD, or find it in some streaming service or other (this is 2022 after all).
And when you do, ask someone born in that era to join you. Hopefully they’ll get misty-eyed and be happy to tell you why.
Or you can simply drop me an invite; I’ll gladly come watch it with you, and show you why “St Elmo’s Fire” and, more importantly, the Brat Pack were icons of my time!