Brat: An ’80s Story

Grand Central. May 2021. 240p. ISBN 9781538754276. $28. MEMOIR
Throughout the 1980s, McCarthy represented a generation of American white suburban teenagers trying to find their place in the world. Films marketed to teens were booming, and McCarthy made the leap from struggling New York University student with a few credits to his name, to bona fide movie star, thanks to roles in films such as Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire. In this memoir, he looks back at his relationship with his father, strained because of money; at the teachers who saw something in him, despite his seemingly careless attitude; and at the directors who took a chance on him, even though he didn’t fit the standard leading-man model. McCarthy, an award-winning travel author (The Longest Way Home), is a talented and intelligent writer who tactfully refrains from making this a kiss-and-tell history of the Brat Pack. Instead, he focuses on his own experiences—including his bouts of alcoholism and armor of aloofness—and recounts his dawning recognition that he would prefer to work behind the camera instead of in front of it.
VERDICT Students of acting will appreciate learning about McCarthy’s versions of method acting and his struggles with performing for a camera. Fans of ’80s cinema will love the chance to reminisce.
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