Recordando la vida en la Brat Pack: ‘Nunca existió de ninguna manera real’ | Películas documentales

If you’ve ever affectionately referred to Andrew McCarthy and his acting cohort as “the Brat Pack”, just know that they hated that label, which was coined in an infamous and arguably dismissive New York Magazine cover story. That’s what his new documentary, Brats, lays out before turning into something else: an opportunity for McCarthy to catch up with the audience and embrace how the term Brat Pack embalmed them in a seismic and precious pop-cultural moment.

Brats is a personal journey, with camera in tow, for the actor who played the gentle but daft heartthrob opposite Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink and the forlorn one in the brattiest ensemble of them all, St Elmo’s Fire. The audience rides shotgun as McCarthy reunites with fellow Brat Packers like Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy and Demi Moore. They therapize themselves and that moment (Moore is especially good at this), while it dawns on McCarthy what he and his castmates meant to the generation of mall rats from the 80s weaned on Pink Floyd and John Hughes coming-of-age movies.

“There’s no more wondrous moment in life than when you’re coming of age and blossoming,” says McCarthy, on a Zoom call with the Guardian. “We represent that for people.”

He’s reflecting on those 80s youth movies – like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Breakfast Club – that grew ubiquitous when Hollywood realized how often teens go to the movies. McCarthy, who made his screen debut starring opposite Rob Lowe in the 1980 movie Class (think The Graduate meets Meatballs), became a fixture alongside his contemporaries for young audiences who saw in those movies some idealized reflection of what they were experiencing at the time. “When they look at me, they see their own youth,” he says.

McCarthy is on the call from his house in New York, his brown eyeglass frames matching the exposed brick wall behind him. We’re talking about how he and his former castmates felt aggrieved by that June 1985 New York Magazine cover story, which was the outcome of Estevez trusting a journalist with a little too much access. Nearly four decades later, McCarthy made a movie about it.

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There’s little chance the conversation I’m having with McCarthy will be made into a movie. There isn’t as much room for anything sensational coming out of the more common and rigid confines of our interview – 20 minutes under the watchful eye of a publicist with McCarthy being careful not to let me lead him too far from his comfortable talking points. It’s a far cry from the refreshingly unwieldy circumstances that led to David Blum’s salacious New York Magazine piece. “I don’t think a journalist has been allowed to go out for drinks with a subject since,” says McCarthy.

Brats is a reclamation story, an attempt by McCarthy to wrestle his narrative back from Blum’s piece, which began as a profile on Emilio Estevez and then grew into a witty, incisive and – in parts – cruelly unflattering assessment of a new breed of 80s movie stars.

Estevez invited Blum to join him and his St Elmo’s Fire co-stars Judd Nelson and Lowe for a night on the town. Blum subsequently reported on the way the stars cravenly sought attention and entertained groupies (and a Playboy Playmate of the Month). He observed them as entitled and narcissistic movie stars who had no professional acting or theatre training, who were commonly working together in ensembles targeting young audiences and who (much like their characters) were partying together like the Rat Pack once did. Blum dubbed Estevez, Lowe and Nelson – as well as Tom Cruise, Sean Penn and Matthew Broderick, among others – “the Brat Pack”, articulating that these stars captured the zeitgeist by playing extensions of themselves, members of the lost and unambitious generation portrayed in St Elmo’s Fire.

Demi Moore and Andrew McCarthy in Brats. Photograph: AP

The story caught fire and the label stuck, but not just to the guys the article was about. Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald and Demi Moore aren’t even mentioned in the male-dominated New York Magazine story but became guilty by association. McCarthy is only mentioned once – in an unkind quote where one of his co-stars who remains unidentified suggests the theatre actor from New York is too intense and won’t make it. Yet he too became a core fixture of the Brat Pack according to a public that largely made it about the actors appearing in The Breakfast Club or St Elmo’s Fire or both – though the defining lines tend to shift.

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“The Brat Pack is who people say it is,” says McCarthy, “because the Brat Pack never ‘existed’ in any real way. It’s more an idea of young actors who’d taken over Hollywood – we were the ones that were doing that at that moment, so we’re in the Brat Pack.”

The so-called Brat Pack responded to the article by largely having nothing to do with each other, going their separate ways so that they wouldn’t validate the claims about their insularity. In Brats, Estevez admits kiboshing working with McCarthy on a planned adaptation of Young Men with Unlimited Capital, the story of the men behind Woodstock. That was his attempt to escape a label that he once told the Guardian will end up on his tombstone.

For obvious reasons, I’m taken by the bits in McCarthy’s film that work as an anthropological look at celebrity journalism: the give and take between the stars and writers relishing their proximity to fame; the trust, defensiveness and performativity in these conversations; and how that’s evolved over time, perhaps as a result of Blum’s piece.

“That doesn’t interest me very much particularly,” says McCarthy, a point he repeats a couple more times during our conversation, even though his movie, about the way a piece of journalism affected his life, features several talking heads from the media, including Blum himself.

From left, Andrew McCarthy, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson and Rob Lowe.

“Estaba interesado en cómo sabía que me afectó a nivel personal”, dice McCarthy, hablando de su película en su conjunto y de esa reunión con Blum. “Durante X cantidad de años, hubiera dicho: ‘odiaba a este tipo’. Escribió un ataque directo… Fue una condena feroz de estos jóvenes”. Y aún lo diría en su cara. Pero ahora nada de eso importa. De hecho, me senté frente a él en una mesa y sentí cariño por él.

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“Era solo un joven, tratando de conseguir su próximo trabajo y tratando de ser ingenioso. Esa era la cúspide del periodismo de Nueva York de los años 80. Eso es lo que hacían; ese tipo de ‘atrapar’. Eso es todo lo que estaba tratando de hacer”.

Intentando encontrar un equivalente moderno al fenómeno Brat Pack, menciono el discurso de “bebé nepo”, la observación que ganó tracción en las redes sociales de que muchas de las nuevas estrellas de la generación actual, como Emma Roberts y Maya Hawke, son hijos de celebridades. Incluso New York Magazine tuvo un artículo de portada discutiendo cómo el término molestaba a las jóvenes estrellas de la misma manera que “Brat Pack” sigue molestando a Estevez, uno de los bebés nepo originales.

“A ellos les encantaría que la luz volviera a caer dos veces”, dice McCarthy sobre la portada de New York Magazine sobre los bebés nepo, antes de desechar la comparación. Argumenta que nada en la actualidad podría competir con el fenómeno que se convirtió en la historia del Brat Pack porque ya no vivimos en una monocultura donde todos ven, o al menos son conscientes, de las mismas películas y consumen los mismos medios.

“Si hubiera salido ahora, con mis propias redes sociales, podría haberme defendido”, dice McCarthy. “Podría haberme defendido y creado mi propia narrativa. No teníamos forma de crear una narrativa en absoluto.

“Esa fue una narrativa que este tipo [creó] y fue tan buena, tan ingeniosa y tan inteligente que otras personas simplemente la tomaron. La recogieron del cable, la pusieron en sus periódicos. Literalmente, en una semana, el mundo está diciendo: ‘Eres el Brat Pack’. Nosotros estábamos como: ‘¿Qué?!'”.