Wherein unreasonably free time is dedicated to proving Jonah Hill is funnier than you.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Non-Revolution Sparked by St Elmo's Fire[1]

Box Office Mojo's list of the top "Twentysomething" movies displays something curious: the top two movies -- St Elmo's Fire and About Last Night...-- are from the mid-80s. Mind you, these are unadjusted grosses; those two sold twice as many tickets as the nearest competitor: 1994's Reality Bytes. According to this list, there wasn't anything approaching a hit between 1994 and 2004's Garden State. What happened?

Caveat#1: Some of the movies on the list did well outside of theaters, and/or built up cult followings. The fact that Clerks and Before Sunrise both received sequels is testament to this.

Caveat#2: The list is incomplete. A distinction should be made between movies about people who happen-to-be-in-their-twenties and movies about coming to terms with adulthood, but even that narrower definition certainly applies to more than 29 films over the past 27 years. Knocked Up immediately comes to mind, and it's sold more tickets than St Elmo's Fire and About Last Night combined.

The notion that Demi Moore and Rob Lowe could carry two Twentysomething movies in consecutive years and not be followed by copycats seems inexplicable. Even Clerks begat Telling You (not to mention Waiting).[2]

At the same time, I don't know if I can think about many Twentysomething movies that did well, Knocked Up and The Graduate aside. It's entirely possible that some St Elmo's-lite[3] happened and bombed, escaping the BoM editors' notice. The reason for all this still eludes me, though. What is it about post-college coming of age stories that are unappealing to Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials alike? Or is it the producers who shy away, aiming broader with high school comedies and midlife weepers? Could the fact that we still need to grow up even after we "graduate" be too depressing a concept to dramatize?

[1] Watching I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With put me in the mood to listen to "Rod Stewart Sings the American Songbook," of all things, but the first song that popped up was "Some Guys Have All the Luck," and I got in an eighties mood instead. Hence my viewing of St Elmo's Fire, which started out as a standard Ti'No article, but became this (in no small part because St Elmo's Fire must already have been covered by nostalgic bloggers ad wackseum). My notes on that never-to-be entry can be viewed [warning: cussin!] here.
[2]Why isn't there are quarter-life crisis keyword on IMDb? I tried combining keywords to get there, but no dice. I
did discover that slackers and yuppies can coexist.
[3]Acknowledging that St Elmo's Fire:The Big Chill::Summer:Ethan Frome