At long last, let's get to the film. . .in ten-minute increments:
Precredits. Canadian 80’s schlockmeister David Foster’s famous “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire”* begins like a lush bath of Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers with a quasi-classical musical prologue before launching into the familiar jumping hyper-strings and simple main piano melody we know from Pottery Barns everywhere. It’s slick, brainless, utterly unfettered 1980s movie music rendered with gold-standard professional technique, the best of its kind, to be repeated seven more times during the movie until it drills its serrated, fake-whitened teeth into your brain stem.
*It was common, way back when, for film soundtracks to have some sort of “Love Theme” (parodied to delightful effect in 1978's Attack of the Killer Tomatoes), which were little snippets of musical cheese-whiz to be played over scenes of extensive liplock and/or fluid transmission between the lead characters. This hearkens back to June 28, 1969 (the exact date, 16 years later, of S.E.F.’s U.S. premiere), where Henry Mancini’s “Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet” hit an unexpected #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Unsurprisingly, "Love Theme” reached #15 on the Billboard pop charts in September 1985 -- 25 years ago this week! -- and hung around like a smell for two weeks. But its storied fortunes would end there. It was later nominated for a 1986 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance, which it lost to Jan Hammer's more muscular "Miami Vice Theme," which was not a love theme.
Mercifully brief clip of David Foster and Kenny G playing “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire” (May 23, 2008, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas):
There's a peculiar Internet subculture of amateur home pianists taping themselves playing the S.E.F. "Love Theme” and then posting it online:
What’s not well-known about the love theme is that there’s a version of the song with lyrics called “For Just A Moment” performed as a duet between Amy Holland, who was the wife of Doobie Bro Michael McDonald, and Donny Gerrard, who was in the early-70s Canuck power-ballad pioneers Skylark with – surprise! – David Foster. (Skylark had a hit single back in 1972 with “Wildflower,” which was later sampled by, get this, 2PAC Shakur.) For the S.E.F. soundtrack, Foster enlisted a Murderer’s Row of mullets: Chicago songwriter/producer Richard Marx, Massachusetts guitarist Billy Squier, British guitarist John Parr, Seattle saxophonist Kenny G, and, for some reason, Yes lead singer Jon Anderson and The Tubes’ Fee Waybill.
Here’s the video:
Opening credits. Large thin red lettering -- very similar to the opening titles for The Exorcist -- given a slight neon red glow. This was a familiar trope of 80s films. Also see: Opening credits for Alan Rudolph’s Choose Me (1984) and Martin Scorcese’s After Hours (1985).
Opening shot. Seven* characters are walking away from Frat Row across the Georgetown University commons (actually Frat Row from the University of Maryland at College Park) towards a Vaseline-smeared lens in their graduation gowns, locked arms. They are (from left):
Kevin Dolenz (Andrew McCarthy) – heretofore referred to as “Kevin”
Wendy Beamish (Mare Winningham) – heretofore referred to as “Wendy”
Billy Hixx (Rob Lowe) – heretofore referred to as “FuckFace”
Alec Newbury (Judd Nelson) – heretofore referred to as “Alec”
Leslie Hunter (Ally Sheedy) – heretofore referred to as “Leslie”
Julianna Van Patten (Demi Moore) – heretofore referred to as “Jules”
Kirby Kaeger (Emilio Estevez) – heretofore referred to as “Kirbo”
*STUDY-GROUP QUESTION: “Why do WASPY ensemble dramas about groups of wimpy white friends ‘coming to terms’ with sh*t always hover around a body count of seven main characters?” The numbers don't lie: The Big Chill (7), Queens Logic (8), Beautiful Girls (10), Friends (5), Fandango (4), American Graffiti (7), Metropolitan (7), Return of the Secaucus 7, Four Friends, Singles (6), The Class (8) = Average Ensemble Character Count: 6.6
From the looks of them, they probably never heard of Fugazi’s Revolution Summer (which actually was happening the very summer this film was released) or Bad Brains at the 9:30 Club. They certainly wouldn’t know the names of notorious local underground drugnitaries like Rayful “The Babe Ruth of Crack” Edmond III (a huge fan of the Georgetown Hoyas, the basketball team of St. Elmo kids’ alma mater, whose notorious drug dealin’ momma “Bootsie” Perry worked in D.C.’s Department of Health and Human Services, the same office that employs Mare Winningham’s Wendy Beamish character) or Cornell “The Ghost” Jones (the angel dust baron of Washington who peddled his wares in the shadow of the Capitol building) if they climbed on their corner-booth table took a growler in their leek soup. On the one hand, would these people know where to buy their cocaine? Were they aware of the more sketchy areas of the city, like the Northeast Quadrant or the Orleans or Hanover Place housing projects? How about the stretch of Ethiopian restaurants along 18th Street in the ethnic enclave of the Morgan-Adams district? Probably not. After all, this was written by people in Malibu* who don't like to finish any sentences.
*"The only evidence that anyone involved with the film even visited DC was a few seconds filmed at my college (I remember the film crews) and the Haagen Dazs across M Street from the bar. At the time this was the movie's only good joke, because Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye (of Black Flag and Minor Threat) had held down day jobs there. We kept waiting for these mopey little squirts to run into some of the punks who infested the neighborhood and get their heads rammed up their own sousaphones. Now, that would have been a Saintly act!" (Amazon comment by “Michael from Silver Spring, MD” 6/10/05)
So anyway, our heroes and heroines are walking towards the camera, laughing without a care in the world, when we hear the sound of a car skidding, crash, horn blaring…oops, looks like the Docksider paradise of youth is about to be shattered by…
SCENE I: GEORGETOWN HOSPITAL ER - NIGHT
…you guessed it, a car crash! This dizzying sequence where our friends arrive to the rescue of Wendy predates ER by almost a decade, and it manages to match that show’s smugness almost from the first few images: Kevin smoking cigarettes in the hospital (with nobody telling him not to); Alec, in a sun-yellow power tie and blow-dried yuppie haircut, bursts through the front doors and starts name-dropping and influence-peddling almost with his first breath (“Alec Newbury, from Congressman Langston’s office…”); Wendy has just gotten a new car from Rich Daddy for graduation; Jules, her ironed locks held together with hair combs, wearing some sort of pink crushed-satin party dress under a mink stole (?!?), makes fun of the naked fat patient wandering around in a daze. (Jules will wear this dress no less than four times during the film.) Their clothes immediately tag them as big-print characters splurped out of Some Screenwriter’s caulking gun. Most annoying is Kirbo (wonder if his middle name is “Kevin” or “Kendall”), in spiffy bowtie and Italian rez checkered apron, trying out his Young Lawyer shtick (“We're dealing with a first-time offender here. Miss Beamish won't press charges, so why not let it slide?”) to the bemused black DC cop, who snubs him wonderfully (“Forget it, counselor”) without crushing his Martin Sheeny little face. Jules mentions that “she had a lot of cash” – twice – without really knowing what to do with it.
As Jules and Leslie sit gabbing in the foreground, fat naked guy wanders behind them past Jules’ “date,” a Mad Men-looking poster boy in a black gypsy-moth tux. This is as salient an image of the Reagan 80s as we’ve seen, and we’re only two minutes in! But was it intentional? Is Schumacher actually fitting in some commentary on his idiotic main characters? Taken with Kirbo’s exchange with the cop, our vote is “no.” Watching these moments 25 years later, they take on the effect of watching one of Mad Men’s glorious anachronisms, especially the scenes where the lead (white) characters interact with marginal characters (ethnic, mainly black) and obliviously reveal their worst characteristics. Difference is, Mad Men intends this to happen: S.E.F. reveals the same characters as its filmmakers: superficial, uninterested in the barest of nuance, insensitive, cynical. Jules throughout the film reveals a particular mean streak, ripping on blacks, insane people, infirm people, welfare hospitals, homeless people, Arabs, Jews. Wow, someone was pretty thorough!
Wendy appears with a bandaged head and immediately assures her coked-out friends, “I'm fine.
I'm fine. The car my dad got me for graduation is totalled.” Alec immediately starts giving orders to Kevin, his chosen lackey for life: "Go find Billy. See if you can sober him up.”
Whose name are these coiffured feti expending all of this wasted energy on? Why, it none other than Billy “The Kid” Hixx*!
*EXCERPT FROM ROB LOWE’S CONTRACT: ‘Mr. Lowe wishes his character’s name to be spelled quote ‘real cool like…like with two or five XXs at the end or something that rhymes—I dunno, you figure it out, you’re the law-type guys, I’m outta here’ endquote.’
Billy the Kid is often described by reviewers as "frat boy of the group.” I never knew any frat boys from this time period who didn’t have Marine-short hair covered in white golf caps and some sort of sports sweatshirt and stone-washed jeans with the cuffs turned up slightly and those leather moccasins with the crepe soles and leather laces. This guy looks like he’s trying to meld Lester Young with Joey Lawrence. There he is, playing his saxophone on the back steps of an ambulance, bathed in devilish magenta neon, dagger cross hanging from his earlobe, hair looking all tousled and forbidden, like a camouflaged octopus strapped itself to his head. Now that we think of it, Billy looks a lot like singer John Parr (whose S.E.F. theme is only minutes from flying out of the screen and marking us forever) and his name matches his somewhat (Hixx = Parr). Kevin: “I wouldn’t strike a match next to him.”
Billy’s first line to the attending nurse: “Do you believe in pre-marital sax?” It is two minutes and 30 seconds into the film and he’s already earned the name FuckFace. Thing is, as it will happen countless times throughout the film, people around FuckFace react to his FuckFacedness with incredible mirth and restraint. The hot nurse actually laughs! It is a testament to Lowe’s charisma (mainly, eyes and rakish grin) that he pulls off this consummate dickweed’s appeal for so long, but it’s also a testament to the fraudulence of filmmaking: make everybody around him laugh and we will too. Well, we did. (Except for those prescient peeps at the Razzie Awards, who voted Lowe the Worst Supporting of 1985.) If you saw this movie when it opened, of course, Lowe was the favorite character, the way that the Joker was everyone’s fave in The Dark Knight or Marilyn Chambers was everyone’s fave in Behind The Green Door. Now, he’s a twit d’jour. He’s a sauerkraut fart let out in a mall boutique. He is – after all is said and done – the consummate frat boy. When he gets in the back of the squad car, we hear the cop say, “You have the right to remain silent..." You hope FuckFace will follow this advice. But you know he won’t. He just won’t.
Weird chat between Rob Lowe and portentous, obviously deeply depressed interviewer Brian Linehan (1985)
Alec: “Billy, four months after graduation and you’re still acting like every night’s a frat party.” FuckFace is abruptly worried about Wendy, but Kevin counters with a rich-girl joke that’s vaguely anti-Semetic: “How bad is it? Severe. She might have finally exceeded a limit on her father's Visa.” FuckFace’s 2.5 seconds of worry is completely done away with, and everybody laughs. Everything’s fine again! Wendy to FF: “We’ll be right behind you.” (In the Blue-ray version, you can see director Joel Schumacher standing just to the left of the screen, pointing with his thumb at the scene and winking to the audience: “Hah? Get it? ‘Right behind you’? D’you understand? They’re really really close friends! Can I make this any clearer?!”)
The consummate moment of the kind of historical weirdness we mentioned above comes in the bizarre and exceedingly worrying infatuation Kirbo develops with the young ER resident he bumps into during the fray, a tall corkscrew-haired Southern belle brunette who looks a lot like Andie MacDowell with the improbably Semetic name of ‘Dale Bieberman.’ Turns out Miss Beebs and The Kirbomeister had one date Back in the Day. She is also at least four feet taller than him and four years older. For some reason – or no reason – Kirbo watches DB disappear into an examining room where someone is screaming horribly, telling a (natch) young black child, “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be okay” and decides that this chick he’s just reconnected with for 30 seconds (completely clueless to the fact that she’s a harried ER doctor) will be best stalked by him and him only. Kirbo will soon emerge as the movie’s scariest and most dangerous character.
S.E.F. spoof trailer, starring Kirbo, re-cut as a stalker-horror film:
The sound of screaming is tellingly drowned out by pumpin' rock music -- just the first in a series of displays of Kirby’s/the film's shocking ability to block out human suffering. The filmmakers echo this, drowning out the sounds and sights of the ER with the pinched, bendy guitars and compressed, computerized drums of the film's other famous theme song, John Parr’s “Man In Motion.”
The One, the Only, the Original “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” by John Parr (1985):
This song was pretty much ubiquitous in Summer/Fall/Winter 1985. Parr himself was (and still is, we surmise) an English musician. Back in the day, he sported a giant mullet-mane and pumped up biceps that were always on display thanks to a pre-faded, pre-torn jacket vests and tight stone-washed jeans with cowboy boots a la Danny Bonaduce and appeared in videos usually wailing on his American-flag axe while in a windstorm or blowing rain, singing in a strangled, pseudo-croaky voice that was too high to come off as truly threatening. Parr and his band Ponder’s End had come out of the same Newcastle scene that birthed Dire Straits, although you’d never know it from Parr’s output. His first hit in the U.S. was the terminally shrill “Naughty Naughty” (No. 6 on the Mainstream Rock Chart in 1985) which like many songs of this era was a superbly subtle reference to “Nookie Nookie.” Parr’s band ‘The Business’ toured the U.S. opening for – wait for it – TOTO! (We hope no one was burned by the torch being passed…) While the Biz were on tour, they got a call from producer David Foster, who that same year Rolling Stone had called “the master of bombastic pop kitsch." Foster asked Parr to collaborate on a song for a new Joel Schumacher film. Foster himself looks like as much of an 80s musical archetype as Parr: leather jacket, expensive spiked haircut, preternaturally bland good looks, somewhat intense, sharkish expression, the ultimate music industry insider who looks to never have had a moment of doubt or failure in his entire life.
David Foster: Dark Svengali of the S.E.F. soundtrack
There seems to be some confusion as to when the song was actually composed and for what reason. In 2007, when Parr showed up at something called “the Sheffield Children’s Choice Awards” in the U.K., he told the audience that he was “not particularly thrilled” to be involved with S.E.F. and that his iconic (for better or worse) 80s anthem was actually composed in honor of Canadian paraplegic Rick Hansen. (The lyrical reference to “wheels” was about Hansen’s wheelchair.) Others have disputed this, maintaining the title of the movie was actually inspired by the song. But in interviews, Parr has maintained that the studio wasn't initially aware about "Man in Motion" until well into production.
Our verdict: The song’s original title was “Man in Motion” and was later changed to “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” to accommodate the title of the film, which was the original title of the short story first written by Carl Kurlander. Note the awkward way the movie title is shoehorned into the chorus:
I can see a new horizon
Underneath the blazin' sky
I'll be where the eagle's
Flyin' higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion
All I need is a pair of wheels
Take me where my future's lyin'
St. Elmo's Fire
Using a nautical metaphor to describe something with wheels? And then combining it with an aeronautical image of an eagle? What would Coleridge say? Maybe Poor Parr has a right to be bitchy. Then again, the guy took his S.E.F. success to the movie soundtrack bank, starting with "Through the Night," his duet with Marilyn Martin for the Kevin Bacon flick Quicksilver (1986) and progressing -- or maybe regressing -- to "Two Hearts" from American Anthem (1986), "The Minute I Saw You" from Three Men and a Baby (1987) and "Running Away With You" from The Running Man (1987)-- all without having a gun put to his head.
Maybe he got his revenge 21 years later when "New Horizon," a reworking of "Man in Motion" by the faceless dance combo Tommyknockers, became a surprise smash hit:
We surmise that Parr and The Tommyknockers are one in the same, and that it is part of a massive conspiracy conjured up by the singer to keep his One Big Moment alive in our hearts as long as his still beats. Our suspicions were further aroused (and not in the good way) when in January 2012 Parr emerged from his mole-cave once again with "St. Elmo's Fire" rewritten and rerecorded in honor of the compulsively genuflecting Denver Bronco QB Tim Tebow. It was titled "Tim Tebow's Fire." Like a Swiss Army Knife, this song proves to have so many uses!
SCENE II: ST. ELMO’S BAR. GEORGETOWN – NIGHT
The posse pulls up outside our home base for the next 90+ minutes: St. Elmo’s Bar* (apparently, located on M Street), and our young divas and divos pile out onto the street and into their favorite watering hole since their (offscreen) salad days.
*The fictional St. Elmo's was built on a Universal soundstage; the exteriors were shot at the famous Universal backlot "Main Street." (The clock tower used in Back to the Future is a 1/2 block away.) The bar itself was based on a Geo-town pub called The Tombs (1226 36th St. NW) and the exteriors were shot at a joint called Third Edition (1218 Wisconsin Ave.)
Sorry, sorry. Momentarily carried away by the fist-pumpin’ lyrics that play over this brief scene.
“St. Elmo’s Fire” live acoustic (??!?) version (2007)
John Parr clearly NOT playing “St. Elmo’s Fire” for charity – hilarious
I mean, Wow. There are many 80s power-rock tropes contained in this four-minute uber-inspirational ditty that have become beyond cliché when judged by 2010 standards. Hell, they were clichéd then. To whit:
(a) The use of mangled gerunds ("burnin'" "playin’” “comin’” “flyin’” “lyin” “movin’” “growin’” “blazin’”) to imply toughness. Practiced with workmanlike punctuality by the likes of Billy Squier, REO Speedwagon and the inestimable Survivor. The word “burnin’” in itself must be the preeminent mullet-rock cliche of the entire 80s (even Bono was an offender); usually utilized in terms of a “burnin’ desire” or a “burnin’ soul” and referring to some kind of fire in the belly that can only be satisfied by invading Grenada. Also see: Loverboy’s “Turn Me Loose” (1981), Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On” (1984) and Starship’s “We Built This City” (1985).
(b) Persistent anthemic encouragement, always relentlessly upbeat with a near-sociopathic grandiosity (“You know YOU CAN MAKE IT IF YOU TRY!!!!!!!!!!!!”), as if the composers/singers had been chewing on human adrenal glands. Characterized by an oddly quaint a sense of optimism and pump-priming. Ideal music for weight rooms, aerobics classes, mountain climbing, skiing, parasailing, mounting military-style attacks on suburban McDonald's, mounting your uncooperative wife... Carries a positive message about our can-do American spirit with no attention paid whatsoever to how that always seems to go horribly horribly wrong. Also see: Paul Engemann's "Push It To the Limit" (1983), Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best” (1984), Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” (1982) and “The Moment of Truth” (1984), and Starship's “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” (1985).
(c) Pseudo-tough phraseology like “writing on the walls” or “play the game” and some references to “knowin’ the streets.” Parodied to brilliant effect by Paul Thomas Anderson in Boogie Nights (1997):
As for the attendant music video, it contains many of the archetypal MTV flourishes that defined the decade. They include:
(a) Pouring rain, shot through with that pesky neon light, usually osmium blue;
(b) Eyeblink-quick film clips, usually ones that have nothing to do with the video itself, interspersed with shots of the singer in some room somewhere else, standing and belting out the lyrics whilst looking toughly offscreen, only one hand in the pocket of his leather jacket with huge flaps, leaning clumsily on a “St. Elmo’s” sign;
(c) The appearance of a single bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling, lighting up the singer’s chiseled features. Most of the time, it’s swinging back and forth (see “Missing You” by John Waite);
(d) Singer goes from “standing” to “walking” while he mouths the lyrics, both hands thrust into his pockets this time;
(e) Amazing, absurd teased bubble hair = 3 1/2 hours in the makeup chair;
(f) The “fire in a barrel” motif: just to let us know that these are the “mean streets”;
(g) The singer “performs” on a stage that further connects the video to the movie. In Parr’s case, the St. Elmo Bar, standing splay-legged with his striped Gibson Les Paul gee-tarr. He had no band to back him up; he looks sort of uncomfortable. The crowd is loving him;
(h) Singer standing behind a rain-beaded window, singing directly to us this time. Singer must always look unhappy;
(i) The inevitable appearance of the cast members from the film, who have no idea what they are doing: Parr walks around the darkened bar like a sleazy politician, giving a hand squeeze to each cast member in an excruciating one-after-the-other fashion. All they can do is look at him inanely while he mouths the lyrics. Highlights: Demi looks like she wants to blow him; Judd hangs his head and gives a quick pat on Parr’s back, as if to say Let’s get this over with QUICK; Lowe tries to give him a bro-hug and is not-so-subtly rebuffed -- poor Rob! Rejected by your own doppelganger!
Anyway, as “Man in Motion” plays in the bar, we get some rad and utterly unawkward exposition: we learn that Jules is an “international banker” – we will be reminded of this several more times in case the bar-crowd noise drowned it out – and that her nickname is “Moneybags.” We learn that Kevin is writing obituaries for the local paper (“All my characters die in the end; I’d like to write something about the meaning of life for a change”). We learn Alec and Leslie are some sort of premarital power couple with heavy shades of Bill and Hillary Clinton* – Leslie even sports a Hillaryesque (read: unsexy) hairdo. Alec gives her the “There’s some people I want you to meet, so don’t embarrass me” kind of line and she succumbs to it like Gloria Steinem never happened. We learn that FuckFace just has to carry that fucking saxophone around with him everywhere: it’s like an enormous brass pacifier. So surprise! We learn he fucked up at the job Alec got him and got canned. We learn he has a nagging shrew of a wife who rags on him for getting in a car accident with no insurance as well as waking the baby. Poor Felice: there’s a tinge in this scene that we’re supposed to side with FuckFace -- How dare this castrating harpie impinge upon our boy’s awesomeness! He's just a wild stallion who wants to rock! -- even though her complaints are completely understandable and justified.
*When he was working on the Clinton campaign, George Stephanopolous told screenwriter Carl Kurlander that S.E.F. "really meant something to him."
Upon entering the bar and finding their favorite table taken by a bunch of letter-jacketed undergrads, our heroes corral owner Wally (the film debut of Blake Clark, later to be the voice of the Slinky-Dog in Toy Story) into ejecting them (“Wally, undergrads sitting at our table?” “They’ve only been there for 10 minutes.” “We've been here four years!”). We glean their oft-repeated inside jokes, like going “ba-dump-bump-pssshhh” whenever someone cracks a bad joke (by then, the verbal rimshot was already calcifying into a cliché) and the more tribal "a-booga-booga-booga, ah-ha-haaaa!” for no apparent (to us) reason.* Kevin politely if ineptly pours his mates’ glasses of beer, which have more foam than a polluted Ohio river, before his own, immediately making him -- along with timid lil' Wendy -- the most selfless member of this sorry gaggle. They all smile so knowing at each other’s inside jokes that it starts to become irritating, contributing to a persistent air of smugness that never quite dissipates.
*This chant allegedly began as an in-joke between the young leads, who were imitating the sound of lookyloos who were watching location shooting and ostensibly commenting on/laughing at the actors.
FuckFace has Mr. Wrong written all over his taped up sunglasses. First, he blithely recites a joyous ee cummings-like recollection if the accident he almost died in: "Blinding white light. Skid. Tree. Impact. It was out of hand! It was a metaphysical-precision collision." Then, in a flash, he is hitting on a chubby bar skank right in front of poor Wend:
FUCKFACE: How about we cut out of here?
UGLY CHICK: Well, I came with some girlfriends.
FUCKFACE: Look, this face seats five.
Really, was that absolutely necessary? Again, FF says something blatantly offensive – to us, not the people onscreen – and some chick thinks it’s hilarious. Would this line EVER work if he wasn’t Rob Lowe?* Test this out by going down to your local neighborhood bar.
*Carl Kurlander: “Whenever you were in a room somewhere in 1985, if a woman was going to want to sleep with someone, it would be Rob Lowe.”
Alec persists on being Nurse Ratched to FF's Randle P. McMurphy:
ALEC: “Do you know what it means to have a suspended license for drunk-driving on your permanent record?”
FUCKFACE: “Yeah, it means I’ll never be a cop in D.C.”*
*I’ve seen this flick close to 250 times in my life – and that’s a low estimate – and I never understood why they all yell “Busted!!!” and waggle their fingers in the air after this exchange. Assumed this was another deep-cover inside joke that we weren’t really meant to “understand.” Turns out, thanks to the miracle power that is Closed Captioning, what they are saying is “Wally!” and all pointing quite obviously to Kirbo, who is sneaking a gulp of beer. Kirbo, called out again in front of his boss, mutters: “Betrayed!” and undoubtedly beings concocting a horrific plot of vengeance against his unwitting friends.
Meanwhile, Jules quizzes Kevin about his dormant manhood: "Don't you enjoy anything anymore? Like girls?" Kevin responds with one of the film's best lines: “I enjoy being afraid of Russia. It's a harmless fear, but it makes America feel better, Russia gets an inflated sense of national worth from our paranoia. How's that?” There are kids alive now who see this scene and think, "Russia!?"
WENDY: Will you give Billy a break? He lost his job today.
LESLIE: The job Alec got for him?
JULES: Did you give him any money?
WENDY: A little.
JULES: Wendy! I thought you were cutting out things that don't work in your life.
WENDY: Doesn't leave much.
LESLIE: I better break this to Alec gently. (exits)
JULES: This thing with Billy is too destructive.
WENDY: Life in the fat lane.
JULES: Wendy, you're not fat.
WENDY: My thighs are fat. No diet works. Only way to lose weight in your thighs is amputation.
JULES: What you need to amputate is Billy the Kid.
WENDY: I know. I know, but I can't.
JULES: I don't get it.
WENDY: Me neither.
In this scene, Mare Winningham* reveals herself to be the saving grace of S.E.F. (with Andrew MCarthy, despite his bug eyes and general sensitive-guy douchiness, a close second). Look at the mousy/sexy way she says the line “Me neither." According to lore, when Winningham showed up for the role of this "daddy's rich little fat girl", the filmmakers discovered she wasn’t fat at all. By the time filming began, Winningham was pregnant. She was playing the group's lone virgin with a bunned oven.
*Twenty years later, in Ulu Grosbards' Georgia, she played a folk singer tasked with reigning in her shrill annoying self-destructive little sister (Jennifer Jason-Leigh), who thinks she’s a “musician.” Winningham received an Oscar nomination for this role, leading one to believe she called up all of her frustration with acting with Rob Lowe and took it to the bank.
The boys have their bathroom moment: FuckFace even lets Alec dunk his hair into a toilet for God’s sake – a talent the young Newbury probably perfect on nerds and dweebs in high school. (Quite honestly, if my friend dunked my head in a nasty bar toilet, I’d have left his larynx hanging out of his neck.) Having sufficiently fueled up, our group streams out of the bathrooms and joins an all-bar group singalong to "Give Her a Little Drop More," British jazz trumpeter John Chilton's ode to date rape:
I like a girl who drinks
Life for her just can't begin
Till she's had a double gin
She's stuck to the chase
When she gets a taste
Give her a little drop more
TUNE IN NEXT WEEK: We continue to perform our body-cavity search of S.E.F. and get to the next ten minutes.