Tag Archives: Andie MacDowell

St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

st elmos fire

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Introducing the brat pack.

Seven friends from college start out on the rocky road of adulthood while learning to hold down full-time jobs and having long term relationships. Kirby (Emilio Estevez) is obsessed with an older woman (Andie MacDowell) who doesn’t reciprocate his same interest. Alec (Judd Nelson) wants to get married to Leslie (Ally Sheedy) despite the fact that he has already cheated on her with several other women. Wendy (Mare Winningham) is secretly in love with Billy (Rob Lowe) who is married to someone else and Kevin (Andrew McCarthy) has a secret crush on Leslie while Jules (Demi Moore) still seems to be in perpetual party mode.

I would’ve liked some explanation as to why there was a nude fat guy walking around in the opening scene at the hospital, but otherwise I felt the beginning was okay. The dialogue has a believable conversational quality and friends sticking together lends out a nice vibe although the scene where Alec dunks Billy’s head into a toilet after he loses his job would’ve ended that friendship for me quite quickly. The setting was supposed to be Georgetown University, but ended up being shot at the University of Maryland instead. I liked the tree lined streets and snazzy apartment neighborhoods, but was surprised how kids just out of college could afford such ritzy places.

The main fallback is the male characters that even for guys seem too full of extreme contradictions. Alec expects loyalty from his girlfriend Leslie even though he’s fooled around on her, but because somehow they were ‘meaningless’ to him then they should be overlooked. Billy is already married and has a kid, but shows no ability or interest in holding down a job and expects his wife to still ‘believe in him’ even though he hits on every woman in sight. Kevin expresses major cynicism towards marriage and relationships and then suddenly expounds on his ‘love’ for Leslie when he is alone with her like he is speaking straight out of a Harlequin romance novel.

The worst though is Kirby who shows definite signs of being a creepy stalker/psycho by chasing after a woman that clearly isn’t that in to him. He sniffs her pillows when alone in her apartment and disrupts one of her parties by barging into it dripping wet with rain and angered that he wasn’t invited. Then when she doesn’t show up to one of his parties he becomes enraged and travels all the way up to her remote mountaintop ski lodge and pounds on her door like he is ready to beat her senseless. What’s even more ridiculous is that she finds his behavior to be ‘flattering’ instead of scary making me wonder if she’s crazier than he is.

The women fare better. Winningham is a great nerdette and Sheedy allows for some genuine sympathy. I even liked Moore who does a fun caricature of an 80’s party girl and her scene inside a homeless shelter was interesting, but having her flip-out so severely and quickly after losing her job was, like with everything else, overdone.

The film’s musical score is the best thing while the drama is over-the-top and impossible to take seriously.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 28, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Joel Schumacher

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)

sex lies and videotape

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sex confessions on tape.

This movie was the critic’s darling when it was released 24 years ago and there didn’t seem to be anyone around that didn’t like it. I remember watching it back then and feeling like it was a bit overrated and although I liked it a little more the second time around I can’t say that my feelings about it have changed all that much. The story is about John (Peter Gallagher) who is married to Ann (Andie MacDowell) and who is having an affair with her sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo) due to Ann’s frigidity. In comes Graham (James Spader) an old college buddy of John’s who stays with the couple temporarily while he looks for a permanent residence. Graham has an unusual fetish of recording women confessing to some of their wild sexual moments to the camera to which he records and then gets off to later. Ann is initially attracted to Graham, but when she finds about his habit she is appalled only to later become keen to the idea and agree to do a taped confession herself, which sends everything spiraling out of control.

The movie seems excessively talky with scenes and conversations particularly the dinner one between John, Ann and Graham going on longer than it should. Not a lot really happens and there is little if any action. The production values are pretty basic and don’t seem much different than the ones Graham uses for his taped confessions. For a film that talks so much about sex, which seems to fill pretty much every conversation that the characters have it is not very erotic and the attempts at eroticism is pretty generic. I did like writer/director Steven Soderbergh’s use of editing where conversations from one scene between two characters will be heard overlapping over a shot featuring two different characters. However, the scene where Cynthia gives her confession to Graham is ruined by the sound of a train whistle going off in the background, which became distracting.

I also had a hard time buying into the basic premise. I just couldn’t understand why so many women would freely divulge to a perfect stranger all of their deep dark fantasies and sexual excursions knowing full well that they were being recorded for his own personal gratification with no real assurance that these tapes wouldn’t one day get into the wrong hands and come back to haunt or humiliate them years later. There is also what I considered a glitch when Ann is vacuuming the rug and finds Cynthia’s earring underneath their bed, which was apparently left by her when she had sex with John in the bed a few days earlier, but I kept thinking that after a few days Cynthia would have realized that she was missing her earring and had John go back to retrieve it. It is possible that Cynthia may have intentionally planted the earring there for her sister to find since she seemed to really dislike her, but if that was the case the movie should have confirmed this, which it doesn’t.

MacDowell is great in the lead and looks beautiful. I enjoyed the character and felt her presence in the story made the movie more interesting. I did though have some issues with the opening scene where she is seen talking to a male therapist about her lack of sex drive, which to me wasn’t realistic. I would think that if a woman had sexual problems that she would be reluctant to discuss it with a male and would only talk about it with a female Dr. Also, she sits on his sofa Indian style with her shoes off, which seemed too relaxed a posture for a woman that otherwise is frigid and reserved.

Spader is also likable and conveys a surprisingly sensitive performance. However, I couldn’t understand what type of person in this day and age would leave their door always unlocked especially at night. Gallagher is just too much of a narcissist pretty boy philanderer to have much appeal although seeing how things unravel for him at the end and how he somehow feels morally superior to Graham is interesting.

I didn’t care for the Cynthia character at all. She dresses and behaves too much like a one-dimensional tramp and the only thing that ever comes out of her mouth is a barrage of sarcastic, snarky remarks and at no time ever shows even some remote sensitivity, which might have helped.

Although his part is brief Steven Brill is a hoot as a barfly constantly making feeble attempts to hit on Ann. He is the one amusing part of the movie, which I wished had infused more humor.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 18, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Studio: Miramax

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray