Tribeca 2024: Brats (***)

By Dennis Hartley

Linndrums,  teen angst, and synths…oh my! If you are of a certain age, you may recall a distinctive sub-genre of of films that propagated in the early-to-mid 80s. More often than not, they were directed by John Hughes, targeted to appeal to a mid-teens to early 20s audience, and featured mix-and-match ensembles of fast-rising young Hollywood stars like Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, John Cryer, Judd Nelson, et. al.

In 1985, 29 year-old pop culture writer David Blum did a lengthy profile in New York magazine that was initially intended to focus solely on Emilio Estevez. However, after carousing for a few days with Estevez and some of his contemporaries, he came up with a hook for his piece, christening this core group as “The Brat Pack”. The term stuck, becoming ingrained into the pop culture lexicon.

One of those young actors was Andrew McCarthy (Class, St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink, Less Than Zero). For his engaging documentary, McCarthy set  out to track down some of his fellow Brat-packers to get their take on how this reductive labeling affected their subsequent careers; was it a curse, a blessing, or a little of both?

While it’s fun to watch McCarthy and his fellow actors sharing war stories and commiserating on the ups and downs of early stardom, the most interesting segment is toward the end of the film, when he sits down with a wary and defensive David Blum. To his credit, McCarthy keeps it civil; that said, he does share his feelings with the writer vis a vis how hurtful the “Brat Pack” labeling was to him personally,  asking him if he thought it was “mean”. Blum’s pragmatic response reminded me of the sage advice given to the budding journalist in Almost Famous: “Never make friends with the band.”

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