brat: an '80s story
by Andrew McCarthy
Grand Central Publishing
Review by Lee Sobel (5/16/21)
5 out of 5 stars
First of all, I am the same age as Andrew McCarthy and in the mid-80s when he was starring in movies like Heaven Help Us and Pretty in Pink, I was going to see those movies and enjoyed them. Add to that that I once met him on the street in New York and that he had gone to NYU at the same time I did, and I've always felt a kinship toward him. So I was ready to read this book, which is exactly what a memoir of a performer should be: well-written but economical, stylish prose without being too pretentious, loaded with personal revelations that never feel like he's wallowing in self pity, and lots of fun anecdotes about his movies, the people he hung out with, and more.
He's very clear on the fact that becoming a movie star at such a young age is not as easy as it looks. Your friends and family begin to resent your success; your peers make disparaging comments about you behind your back that end up in the press; and temptation beckons from every corner. I think what made McCarthy such a good actor was his facility to harness his vulnerability and it's clear that his sensitivity was very real. Soon the
pressures of work and life itself accelerated his use of alcohol as a means to control his anxiety and of course it spiraled out of control. His relationship with his father is particularly sad, ending with his father passing in a hospital and Andrew apologizing for not being the son that his dad had wanted.
Along the way he hangs out with Jacqueline Bisset and Liza Minelli and Sammy Davis Jr. and makes one movie after another. The book gives you insight into techniques Andrew used as an actor to become comfortable making movies. Feeling intimidated by the camera? Picture it in your mind as the family dog you loved as a kid. Angry at your director every time you are asked to do something in your performance that goes against your instincts? Clap your hands to release your aggression after the director's annoying comments. McCarthy has a very good memory and he's open to revealing his real feelings about co-stars and directors (something a lot of memoirs do not do because the authors either don't remember or they don't want to offend anyone).
The book just covers the 1980s, which was very smart, since he's been forever branded, for better or worse, by that decade. This is the kind of book that once you start reading it you won't want to stop. For those of us of a certain age who were in our 20's in the 1980s, you will enjoy taking this one to the beach with you this summer.