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"Brats" Review

 In June 1985, New York magazine ran a profile of the stars of the upcoming movie St. Elmo's Fire entitled "Hollywood's Brat Pack" - a riff on the old Rat Pack clique which featured Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., et al - which in a instant tagged, tarred and/or tarnished everyone in the movie and adjacent films with the shorthand that they were unserious, spoiled and/or untalented, well, brats. This had lingering effects on many of their careers even after the Eighties ended and though some soldiered on in their careers, others felt permanently damaged.

In the latter camp is clearly Andrew McCarthy - star of Pretty In Pink, St. Elmo's Fire, Less Than Zero and director of the documentary Brats (not to be confused with the slutty Bratz doll movies), which is based on his 2021 memoir Brat: An '80s Story. After musing to the camera in a precious manner about how the article messed up his career, he proceeds to call all his costars to talk about it, some whom he hasn't spoken with in over 30 years. (But he has their phone numbers?)

So off he goes for interviews with Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Rob Lowe, Demi Moore (all from St. Elmo's Fire) as well as Lea Thompson and Jon Cryer from Pretty In Pink as well as its director (and Thompson's husband) Howard Deutch, and Timothy Hutton, winner of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Ordinary People in 1981, for some reason.

Things get off very awkwardly with his interview with Estevez who looks at him with a mix of fear, pity, and embarrassment for him which prompted me to say the missus, "This movie is going to be Andrew working out his shit on everyone else, isn't it?" For the most part it is, though stars like Moore and Lowe who are still working and wealthy seemed quite relaxed about it. Money makes old hurts fade. Notably, Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald declined to participate, presumably because they want to move forward with their lives unless McCarthy.

 Interspersed with his therapy sessions, he sidebars into an interesting discussion with Lauren Schuler Donner, producer of Pretty In Pink and St. Elmo's Fire, and some casting directors about how the early-1980s represented a major sea change in movies as the works of John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) as well as movies like Risky Business and Fast Times At Ridgemont High changed the focus from the Seventies serious auteur era of Coppola and Scorsese, then the blockbuster era of Lucas and Spielberg, to movies focusing on teenagers stories starring teens and near teens.

Towards the end, a big surprise is his sitting down with David Blum, the author of the article that ruined his life. Blum explains the origins of the Brat Pack moniker and that it wasn't even intended as an attack, but was the doing of a 29-year-old writer trying to be clever. (I've seen it mentioned that McCarthy is only mentioned once in the article and that's via a castmate making a crack about him, so all this angst is over what?)

 As someone who went through high school at this time when Fast Times and Breakfast Club somewhat bookended my tenure, Brats was interesting as a reflection upon that phase of Hollywood and young people's lives starring and watching these movies. It's nice to see how the rest of the gang seemed far more able to cope with a headline than McCarthy was, but you'll have to wade through some self-pitying cringiness in the process. The way the scenes are filmed with multiple cameras wandering into frame is distracting as well.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on Hulu.


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