I love Joel Schumacher. I love the Brat Pack. And I will go to the grave defending St. Elmo's Fire as a great film from 1985. While The Breakfast Club - which opened the same year and features many of the same cast - gets all of the critical kudos, I feel St. Elmo's deserves just as much respect.
According to Schumacher, who gave an awesome Q&A at tonight's screening at the Aero (and whose latest film about young people, Twelve, opens soon), St. Elmo's Fire received zero positive reviews upon its release - derided by the establishment as yuppie fluff about seven of the most unlikeable young people in screen history. Said Schumacher, the press labeled it as a wannabe Big Chill that wasn't even a "little chill."
Well, those critics can go suck an egg. On its 25th anniversary, the movie brought out a big crowd, and plenty of things about the movie still work. The score by David Foster, its theme song by John Parr, the amazing production design, the A-list cinematography from Stephen Burum (Schumacher noted that Burum, a Vietnam vet, also helped shoot the classic Valkyrie sequence in Apocalypse Now), and, foremost, the performances hold up beautifully.
You may not like the self-centered individuals onscreen, but you believe each of these actors in their roles, and because there is a human truth to what they bring to screen, they carry the film's reality. They have their fallacies, but they have their good points, too. You buy them as people. You buy them as friends.
Schumacher's work is still vastly underrated. He did put nipples on the batsuit in Batman and Robin and he has made his share of crap movies. But he's also made some great ones that stand the test of time - The Lost Boys, Flatliners, Falling Down, the underrated Cousins and Tigerland to name a few. Actors like Colin Farrell, Matthew McConaughey, Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts each owe a debt to Schumacher's touch - his sense of visual design (he started off in the art department), his ability to draw out A-list performances, and his knack for mixing creativity and commercialism in a way Hollywood rarely does nowadays. Since Schumacher and John Hughes, have there been any other directors with their consistency and high caliber eye for genuine, youth talent? To both, I'm forever thankful, for providing some of the most important teen movies of my generation.