Hulu’s Hollywood Brat Pack Documentary


During a bit of small talk, an anonymous cashier mishears director Andrew McCarthy’s explanation of the project he’s working on: “The Rat Pack?” The Brat Pack, McCarthy corrects. “That sounds familiar,” replies the younger man in the polite tone of someone who has no idea what you’re talking about.

It’s a throwaway moment in the film, but one that gets at the good-natured humility that makes the whole thing tick. The marketable hook of Brats is that it’s a documentary about the (in)famous 1980s young Hollywood cohort, helmed by one of its own. What makes it truly compelling, however, is its willingness to step outside that perspective and reconsider the phenomenon from a broader context with the wisdom of age.


The Bottom Line

A smart, reflective take on a cultural phenomenon.

Airdate: Thursday, June 13 (Hulu)
Director-Screenwriter: Andrew McCarthy

1 hour 33 minutes

At first, Brats feels like watching a man poke at his own bruises. “I’d lost control of the narrative of my career,” McCarthy recounts of the “Brat Pack” label. (The term was coined by David Blum in a 1985 New York magazine profile of Emilio Estevez in reference to the hard-partying ways and relative lack of professional training of certain young Hollywood stars who had appeared together onscreen.) Archival interviews of McCarthy and his peers confirm they’ve long felt similarly. 

After an inordinate amount of screen time playing phone tag, McCarthy meets with Estevez to rehash their old complaints. The conversation, captured as an exchange between old colleagues rather than a formal sit-down interview, validates McCarthy’s experience: The criticism haunted them, they agree, to the point that the idea of collaborating again felt like “kryptonite.” 

With few concrete examples of the fallout, however, it’s hard to gauge how much of the damage done to their careers was inflicted upon them by others and how much was self-fulfilling prophecy — especially from the vantage point of 2024, when most movie lovers would regard the nickname as one of affection.

But as McCarthy moves on to other subjects, his narrative becomes more ambitious, nuanced and insightful. While the Brat Packers tend to agree that they resented the moniker, some seem more sanguine about it now than others. McCarthy’s chat with Demi Moore takes on the introspection of a therapy session: “Why did we take it as an offense? Why did we take it as something bad?” she wonders, reflecting on the insecurities of youth. 

Rob Lowe, meanwhile, mounts an impassioned case that the work the Brat Pack did matters, even if the designation felt dismissive — that they helped pave the way for youth-skewed stories like Glee or even Friends. (Molly Ringwald fans be warned: The actress chose not to participate in this project.)

Cultural commentators like Malcolm Gladwell, Bret Easton Ellis and Susannah Gora (who wrote a book about the phenomenon) expound on their personal affection for the group’s films (including The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink), helping situate them within a larger cinematic tradition. 

Structurally, the climax of Brats is McCarthy’s sit-down with Blum, the originator of the term. But a dramatic showdown this isn’t. For one thing, it turns out that the two words McCarthy has carried as an albatross all these decades was, for Blum, just a cute turn of phrase to grab the reader’s attention. For another, both men appear determined to meet each other in good faith: Blum acknowledging the “collateral damage” of his story while standing behind the story itself, McCarthy expressing the pain that it caused him without placing undue blame on Blum. 

While the chat occasionally gets awkward — McCarthy looks downright incredulous when Blum suggests he didn’t get enough credit for helping turn St. Elmo’s Fire into a hit — the overarching tone is so cordial that the visit ends in a hug.

Perhaps that’s because in the decades since, the idea of the “Brat Pack” has outpaced both of them, beyond anything they could have possibly imagined as bright-eyed 20-somethings. It’s come to signify an era, a genre, a collective understanding of what it means to be young and beautiful and famous among equally young and beautiful and famous friends. Against such overwhelming cultural forces, two 60-something gentlemen might find they have more in common than not. 

“I’m glad it’s lived on forever, but I hope it’s not the greatest thing I ever did,” says Blum of the phrase today. To which McCarthy laughs, “You sound like a member of the Brat Pack.” 

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