August 1985: Our Review of St. Elmo’s Fire

With all the other milestones Friday, no one can be faulted for overlooking actor Rob Lowe, who had a bit of news himself. Today, it turns out, is the 30th anniversary of the release of St. Elmo’s Fire, the seminal Brat Pack romantic comedy and the defining movie about young adulthood in Washington.

Washingtonian in those days published several pages of capsule-sized movie reviews in every issue, and the August 1985 issue contained write-ups of several critical films released that summer (including Back to the Future, which received a deserved four stars, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which, inexplicably, only got three).

Of St. Elmo’s Fire, critic Pat Dowell only awarded it two-and-a-half stars, knocking one performance in particular:

There’s nothing much to dislike in this chronicle of seven Georgetown University students trying to find their way in the world after graduation, but there’s nothing very exciting, either–just a lot of self-consciously sensitive conversation about the future and integrity and love. We’ve seen it all before, and the amiable performances of Mare Winningham, Ally Sheedy, Demi More, Andrew McCarthy, Rob Lowe, and Emilio Estevez don’t make it any fresher or any less glib, although they do make it palatable. The overwrought Judd Nelson, however, as an ambitious political aide, has wen out his welcome in just the few months since The Breakfast Club.

Don’t let Downs’s trashing of Nelson get you down. Here’s the trailer for St. Elmo’s Fire, which you can watch July 7 at Georgetown Waterfront Park:

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.