Friday, November 26, 2010

ST. ELMO'S FRIDAY, PART XII: The Redemption of FuckFace


After no mention is made of the fact that she is now being comforted by the very same man who tried to date rape her a few nights previous, Jules* finally speaks in a denuded croak: “Do you know what I've been doing every day since I got fired? I've been sitting in the hospital with my step-monster. We've had the best talks we've ever had. Of course, she's in a coma, which really pisses me off. Because all that time I just waited for one word from that woman about why my father hates me so much.” So that’s it then? Daddy issues? We had no indication of this whatsoever. Jules mentioned in an early scene that his new girlfriend is her age, which bodes the contemporary question: Was Jules molested as a child? I know, I know, it sucks, but people weren't asking such questions in 1985.
*Jules trivia: Demi Moore wanted to play this scene nude but that Schumacher killed that idea because it would be too hard to film -- something Andrew Bergman figured his way around when he directed her for Striptease 11 years later. Back in the day, film-industry stroke mag Premiere alleged that Schumacher lit into Moore on the set, screaming at her until she was in tears. Hence, the real tears on film...
Oh wait, FuckFace is still talking: “Jules, you know, honey, this isn't real. You know what it is? It's St. Elmo's fire. The electric flashes of light that appear in dark skies out of nowhere.* Sailors would guide entire journeys by it. But there was no fire. There wasn't even a St. Elmo.** They made it up because they needed it to keep going when things got tough. Just like you're making up all of this. We're all going through this. It's our time on the edge.”
*Sorta true. St. Elmo's fire is a real phenomenon is quite real, whose origins are electrical in nature. St. Elmo's fire didn't appear in the sky but instead manifested around the masts of the ship, thus making it impossible to chart a course by.
**St. Elmo was actually two Roman Catholic saints: St. Peter Gonzalez and St. Erasmus of Formiae. Both are considered the patron saints of sailors.

Real St. Elmo’s Fire As Seen from the cockpit of an A319:

Believe it or not, the most famous image in the entire film – Lowe touching his lighter to one of Jules' aerosol cans and blasting a brief flame without managing to catch his mullet on fire – was Rob Lowe’s idea (“a burst of energy and beauty and youth and combustability that is there for an instant, then gone forever”). This is the strange twist buried deep in this film’s sparkly surface: Lowe’s character has been FuckFace for most of the film, but he redeems himself with his “St. Elmo’s fire” metaphor – much the same way Rob Lowe the actor has been coasting on his roguish good looks for most of the film, only to add the flame at the last minute and thus creating one of the most enduring images in ‘80s movies. Wethinks that FuckFace has earned the right – despite the phone book-sized list of crimes and misdemeanors he has accrued over the last two hours – to be called Billy again. (Case in point: The "old" Billy would have lit one of his farts to make the St. Elmo's fire metaphor.) The filmmakers have pulled off a great little bait and switch: It was Alec who began the film as our worshipped idol, and by the end, he is revealed as the consummate dickweed; the exact opposite happens for Billy.

JULES: I'm just so tired. I never thought I'd be so tired at 22.* I just don't even know who to be anymore.
*Susan Becker, the film’s costume designer, was the originator of this line. Judging from the awful fashions seen in this film, she should have taken a long nap.

BILLY: Join the club. No one was buying this together-woman-of-the-eighties stuff anyway.
JULES: And all this time I was afraid you'd find out I wasn't fabulous.
BILLY: It's cool. All this time I was afraid you'd find out I was irresponsible.

They're laughing! Hey Mikey!


Even Wendy – who apparently has won can’t believe his transformation. (Well, he sits on the floor playing his just-rebought-from-hock sax without once offering to help Wend paint her new apartment…but hey, Rome wasn’t rebuilt in a night.)

WENDY: So when did you get so sane?
BILLY: When I realized how insane I'd been trying to be like Alec. I'm not part of this after-college life. Careers. Marriage. Felicia and Melody'll be better off without me.

Apparently, Felice and Ray Slater have reconciled. Billy even pays Wendy back for the 4,000 times he’s hit her up for cash. “I'll get you the rest once I get settled in New York,” he resolves. “If I can find someone who's fool enough to let me play my sax.” This leads to Wend’s trite mini-logue:

You wanna know what's great? Last night, I woke up to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And you know, it was my kitchen, and it was my refrigerator and it was my apartment and it was the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich I've had in my entire life.

The best? Wend, your peanut butter and jelly ain’t got nothin’ on what’s coming down your pike:

BILLY: You still a virgin?
WENDY: Why is my sexual status so important to you?
BILLY: Have I abused our relationship too much or could I be so bold as to ask you for a going-away present?

He shoots, he scores! The Giants have won the pennant! We’re goin’ all the way tonight tonight we’re goin’ all the way toniiiiigghhhhht!*
*What the filmmakers have left out: Blood, lot's o' it.. "Owwwwuch!” “Um, oops, sorry”…Billy cutting away Wendy’s rubber fat suit with an Xacto knife…embarrassed crying…Billy using the thumb of a painter’s glove as a condom…lots of hot water and soap…Wendy turning into a total sheet-scorcher and batting Billy’s balls out of the park, making him eat out of a dog dish: "Billy. Your money’s on the dresser. I’m done with you.”


Our penultimate scene. Billy’s leaving on that midnight bus to New York. Everyone looks quietly relieved.

TITMOUSE (Alec): You're beautiful. Never shave.
BILLY: Don't go changing to please me.*
*It would make sense that he would quote Billy Joel to Alec, who seems to not be able to part with his Billy Joel record The Stranger, of which “Just the Way You Are” is the 3rd track.

Billy’s parting wisdom before he boards the Greyhound: “Go get out of hand.”

LESLIE: (voice over) I can't remember who met who first...or who fell in love with who first. All I can remember is the seven of us always together….

The other big change comes when that slut Leslie links her arms with the two men she’s been toying with like wounded little mice: “I've made a decision. I think I have to be by myself for a while. I love you both. I'm gonna try life without any miracles for a while. I hope we can still be friends.”

Ugh. Yet Alec and Kevin seem totally happy with that. No grappling necessary.

"Uh, Billy, I think I'm pregna -- oh, never mind"


The “sobering up” scene. The gang stops by St. Elmo’s Bar and stares inside: suddenly, the bar seems too loud and too stuffed with “kids.” They all have to get up early the next day and go to work. Jules has to find work. So does Kirby, who’s out on bail for the mysterious dissappearance of a young medical resident and her doctor boyfriend. They resolve to meet for brunch at another restaurant – “Hoolihan’s,” which I imagine as a nightmare hybrid of Bennigan’s and Applebee’s. These peeps are aging so rapidly that by the end of the scene they’re playing shuffleboard, wearing their pants up to their navels, watching Fox News, stealing free packets of Sweet ‘N’ Low from restaurants and going to bed at 4:30pm. Ah, the death of youth in time lapse.

JULES: Guess what? You guys will never believe it. I found out that it only costs $250 to bury a cat. So I figured, why don't I just put my step-monster into a large cat suit?

(Collective groan from the gang: “Oh, you wacky Jules!”)

ALL: A-booga-booga-booga, ah-ha-ha!

Last shot: The exterior of the St. Elmo’s Bar. Up with "Man in Motion" song.

The (merciful) end.
bobbything, forum, 11/11/09

TUNE IN NEXT WEEK: Where we mop up the booth and assess the body count.

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