‘Brats’ Film Review: Andrew McCarthy Revisits The Brat Pack

Share This:

“I’m not gonna say we were The Beatles or anything, but there were some times when the frenzy around [us] was certainly up there.” That’s Rob Lowe, talking to Andrew McCarthy about the actors, all in their early twenties who collectively became known as “The Brat Pack” during Hollywood’s rush to make movies targeted towards 18-20-year-olds in the mid-’80s. The studios’ goal was to feature as many of the young stars as they could cast. They’re the subject of a new documentary, Brats, from McCarthy, loosely based on his 2021 book, Brat: An ’80s Story. The film premiered on June 7 at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival and makes its streaming debut on Hulu on June 13.

There is a consensus as to who comprised The Brat Pack’s seven core members. The guys were Emilio Estevez, Lowe, Judd Nelson and McCarthy. The trio of gals were Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald. And there were many others on the periphery such as Lea Thompson who jokingly says she was “Brat Pack-adjacent,” along with Jon Cryer, Matt Dillon, and others. McCarthy reverentially calls the slightly older Timothy Hutton, who earned the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor at age 20 in 1980’s Ordinary People, “The Godfather of The Brat Pack.”

For that brief period during the ’80s, these actors were box-office gold, in such movies as Pretty in Pink and The Outsiders. And it’s in no small part to John Hughes, the director and screenwriter, who was roughly a dozen years older than his casts. (Four of the core seven were born in 1962; the outliers are Nelson (1959) and Ringwald (1968).] Hughes, who died in 2009 and appears occasionally in Brats via archival footage, is still revered by his actors. “He allowed us to be collaborative,” says one.

For the film, McCarthy visits many of the fellow actors. And it’s a bit of a shock to discover that he needs to do some detective work to get many of their phone numbers: in many cases they haven’t seen each other in three decades. “The assumption is that we’re all still friends,” says Estevez. McCarthy wasn’t able to interview all of the core seven. But from those he does, he elicits some insights into their lives—phobias, jealousies, secret crushes—during those years. One actor admits to being assigned a “sober companion” during filming. “Friends doesn’t happen without The Brat Pack,” says another. [Now in their early ’60s, they still look great.]

If there’s “ground zero” for Brat Pack pictures, it would be two from 1985: Hughes’ own The Breakfast Club, which remains essential viewing for each new generation of high schoolers, and Joel Schumacher’s St. Elmo’s Fire. (Ironically, Ringwald was the only one still in her teens in the former; she’s the only one of the core seven who isn’t in the latter.)

1985 was also the year the term “The Brat Pack” was coined. It came from David Blum for his New York magazine cover story, originally intended to be a feature on Estevez leading up to the release of St. Elmo’s Fire. The writer hung out with his subject and fellow actors for several days while on a publicity blitz for the film, “I didn’t think ‘those brats,'” he tells McCarthy. But when the article with its punny title, Hollywood’s Brat Pack, hit in those pre-social media days, it set off a chain reaction within the media. “I thought the phrase was scathing,” says McCarthy. “I felt like I had lost control of the narrative of my career.”

“It was naive of me to think that the journalist would be my friend,” says Estevez.

Emilio Estevez and Andrew McCarthy, via ABC News Studio

Blum, somewhat unconvincingly, defends his piece all these decades later. “There’s tradeoffs to being a celebrity. These people wanted to be written about. These people behaved the way they did. I’m doing my job as a journalist. It wasn’t meant to destroy or hurt anyone. But really just to define a group of people.”

“Do you think you could have been nicer?” asks McCarthy. “We have no control of how we’re remembered,” is Blum’s reply.

[McCarthy’s book is available here.]

Greg Brodsky

No Comments so far

Jump into a conversation

No Comments Yet!

You can be the one to start a conversation.

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.