Andrew McCarthy's new doc looks past the 'Brat Pack' brand to its cultural impact

"One's relationship to the past can change over time," McCarthy told UPI.

Andrew McCarthy's documentary, "Brats," is now streaming on Hulu. Photo by Ramona Rosales/Disney
1 of 5 | Andrew McCarthy's documentary, "Brats," is now streaming on Hulu. Photo by Ramona Rosales/Disney

NEW YORK, June 14 (UPI) -- Actor, writer and director Andrew McCarthy says penning his 2021 memoir, Brat, helped him process his resentment over how his generation of successful young actors were unfairly and unflatteringly labeled the "Brat Pack" in the 1980s.

"The book was me asking myself all these questions and discovering how I actually felt about this, and how my feelings had evolved over the centuries since it happened and sort of bringing the past up into the present and realizing what a blessing in many ways the Brat Pack was when I initially perceived it to be this really detrimental, negative thing," McCarthy, 61, told UPI in a recent phone interview.


"One's relationship to the past can change over time," McCarthy said. "The book was about my experience, utterly, and, so, then when I finished it, I thought I would like to turn the telescope around and get other people's perspectives on it because it only happened to a handful of us."


In his new documentary, Brats, now streaming on Hulu, McCarthy invites contemporaries like Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Jon Cryer, Timothy Hutton and Lea Thompson to share their experiences of being part of a pop-culture phenomenon.

Just as the actors were starring in ground-breaking, authentic-feeling, popular movies about young adults such as St. Elmo's Fire, Pretty in Pink, Class and The Breakfast Club, a 1985 New York magazine article used the term, "Brat Pack," to describe them, implying they were spoiled rich kids who partied all the time and didn't take their work seriously.

The documentary explains how youth-focused movies, including The Outsiders, Risky Business, The Falcon and the Snowman, Back to the Future and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, marked a cultural sea change that allowed many teens to see themselves and their problems realistically portrayed on big screen for the first time.

The 1980s cinematic youth genre also peaked at a time when movies were released on VCR tapes, inviting fans to endlessly re-watch their favorites and memorize lines of dialogue at home.


These movies influenced what came after them -- could Friends have even existed without St. Elmo's Fire? -- and they still inspire nostalgia for many middle-aged Gen Xers.

"Everybody that said 'yes' said 'yes' instantly," McCarthy said. "The one I was most surprised about was Emilio because he never talks about this stuff."

Estevez is credited with/blamed for bringing New York writer David Blum -- then 29 -- out for dinner and drinks where he witnessed Estevez, Lowe and Judd Nelson partying and basking in attention from women wherever they went.

Blum's observations were chronicled in the infamous "Brat Pack" article and countless newspapers, magazines and TV stations then enthusiastically picked up the moniker in their own coverage of teen and twenty-something celebrities.

The result was that most of stars mentioned in the story avoided collaborating or socializing with each other after that in an effort to tamp down the "Brat Pack" media and fan fervor.

Four decades later, McCarthy said he was more interested in having honest, on-camera conversations with his former co-stars about the watershed article and its subsequent fallout.

"It's a subjective thing. I'm not trying to make the definitive, 'This is what happened,'" McCarthy said. "Everybody was really happy and eager to just catch up. I wanted to ask what they thought."


He said the hardest part of making the film was listening to other people without finishing their thoughts or interrupting to share his own because they seemed to understand each other so completely.

Watching the finished documentary, McCarthy admitted to thinking: "Oh, I just wish I just kept my mouth shut!'"

"I was so excited to talk to [Estevez]," he added. "I wanted to hear what he had to say and what he had to say was very generous and heartfelt."

The biggest revelation that came from the experience, McCarthy said, was how much affection he and his fellow "Brat Packers" had for each other.

"This was not the case when we were young," McCarthy said. "I certainly was not close to any of the gang."

But he said that when he saw his former co-stars, he felt transported to another time.

This, he thinks, is how fans of these movies feel when they revisit them as adults or meet one of the cast members.

"When I saw Rob for the first time in 30 years, I was suddenly seeing myself at 19 years old again," McCarthy said.

It was Lowe that helped McCarthy fully comprehend the impact their films had on the entertainment industry.


"Movies weren't about kids until that instant when they were, then Blum comes, puts the title on it because that's what these people are, and then, 'Boom, that's what it is,'" McCarthy said. "I never understood that before and I thought that was kind of fascinating."

McCarthy also noted how, for years, many filmmakers tried to duplicate the success of the late writer-director John Hughes' Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club.

"He honored young people and took that respect for them and their emotional lives seriously," McCarthy said.

"He was also aware that going to a dance to a 17-year-old is life and death and at 30, 40, 50, going to a dance, making a dress, is not really very important. It's just a bad day if it doesn't work out. But, at that age, it is everything."

While modern-day teens may look and sound differently than young adults of the 1980s, these decades-old films are still finding new admirers.

"The feelings are exactly the same," McCarthy said of kids today. "If they can sit for the first 15 minutes, by the end, they go, 'My God, that's me.' Because feelings don't change, and emotions are emotions, and if they're truthful, they resonate across time."


McCarthy appreciates it when people tell him his addiction drama, Less Than Zero, helped them stay away from drugs or clean up their acts, or that his comedy, Weekend at Bernie's, offered welcome respites during times of grief.

"Movies, books whatever, do that. They create a point of identification for people, so that they can feel less alone, less isolated, and, whenever we can do that, that's a wonderful thing."

Now that he has reconnected with his former co-stars, is there any possibility they might collaborate again?

"Brat Pack's Revenge?" McCarthy joked.

"Me and Rob have chatted about a few things. But when we were getting together for the movie, we just said, 'We're talking about that," McCarthy said. "Everyone's busy doing their own thing. Would it be fun to come back together? Sure because it would just be funny and interesting, but we'll see."

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