“Most people know Andrew McCarthy from his movie roles in Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire, Weekend at Bernie’s, and Less than Zero, and as a charter member of Hollywood’s Brat Pack. That iconic group of ingenues and heartthrobs included Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, and Demi Moore, and has come to represent both a genre of film and an era of pop culture.
In his memoir Brat: An ’80s Story, McCarthy focuses his gaze on that singular moment in time. The result is a revealing look at coming of age in a maelstrom, reckoning with conflicted ambition, innocence, addiction, and masculinity. New York City of the 1980s is brought to vivid life in these pages, from scoring loose joints in Washington Square Park to skipping school in favor of the dark revival houses of the Village where he fell in love with the movies that would change his life. Filled with personal revelations of innocence lost to heady days in Hollywood with John Hughes and an iconic cast of characters, Brat is a surprising and intimate story of an outsider caught up in a most unwitting success.”
As soon as I heard about Brat: An 80’s Story (Amazon), I knew I had to read or listen to it. In this case, I chose the audiobook version, narrated by Andrew McCarthy himself. The 1980’s were my decade, my formative years, from ages 7 to 17, when my tastes and opinions were influenced by my friends, what music I listened to, and what I watched on TV or in theaters. My best friend, Kimberly, and I were all in on anything John Hughes, Brat Pack, or anything that circled those orbits.
McCarthy spends a little time talking about his upbringing, but this light read is mostly as it reads, a book set from 1980 to 1990, how he got pigeon-holed into the Brat Pack, and how he tried to find his way out. Brat is a great nostalgia trip, as Andrew appeared in several big movies that helped define my childhood. St. Elmo’s Fire and Pretty in Pink were often played at my friend Kim’s house (we didn’t have a VCR, believe it or not. Didn’t get one until my sister bought one about 1987.)
Brat doesn’t really get into his relationships with other actors, which is disappointing. He doesn’t kiss-and-tell, which is fine, but he also doesn’t really tell his opinion one way or the other on his other Brat Packers or other actors and actresses he worked with. This book really is all about him and his experiences.
Money, success and fame came calling at an early age, and like some people thrust into the spotlight at an early age, McCarthy began to self-medicate with alcohol. He’s fairly honest about his struggle with the bottle and how he overcame it.
But overall, this quick listen was a rather glossy look at a decade in McCarthy’s life that was the most consequential career-wise. Much like the 1980’s as a whole, there’s a lot of style but little substance. I still don’t feel like I got to know McCarthy any better. But I do find that Brat is still worth it simply for the nostalgia trip.
This is the 47th Audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.
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