Cruise's Cocktails and Dreams
I will readily admit that I love 80s movies, from "The Breakfast Club" to "Streets of Fire", there is something about them which just brings a huge smile to my face. So it won't be a shock when I say I also like "Cocktail" with Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown and Elizabeth Shue. But what will probably surprise you is when I say that it is an incredibly poor movie with a weak plot, cheesy dialogue and not much grip on reality. But then none of these really matter as the whole point of "Cocktail" is to entertain and it achieves this magnificently.
Having left the Army in search of a fortune and a decent career, ex service-man Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise - The Color of Money) finds that getting on the ladder to success is not as easy as he hoped. Forced into taking a part-time job in a busy bar whilst he studies, he soon becomes enthralled with the life style as he is taken under the wing of cynical bar manager Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown - F/X), founder of Coughlin's law, and between them become the hottest bar act in Manhattan as they juggle bottles whilst making cocktails. But when their relationship turns sour, Brian heads off too Jamaica in search of his dream, only to fall in love with a young artist, Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue - The Karate Kid) who is holidaying on the island.
As is often the case with popular movies from the 80s, the storyline to "Cocktail" does not require a degree in nuclear physics to understand, let alone enjoy. In fact some might say that a lot of the elements to the plot, most notably the romantic element, have not only been poached from numerous other movies but have been pieced together in such a haphazard manner that the brains behind this cinematic concoction must have been inebriated themselves.
What is very apparent is that "Cocktail" is a movie of two distinct halves with the first being the more original and enjoyable as the emphasis is purely on entertainment with a mixture of great music and the flair bartending. Whilst the second half tries too hard with a stronger emphasis on a poor story and a smattering of a predictable romantic theme, which feels so distinctly different to the first half that it not only feels out of place but fails to deliver. Ask anyone who has seen "Cocktail" and I would bet 9 out of 10 would tell you all about the first half but fail to remember the less than spectacular second. That is not to say the first half is perfect as the fact that it lacks any real grasp on reality is a bit disappointing. Yes the cocktail juggling played out to "Addicted to Love" is hugely entertaining, but in a packed bar where people come because they are thirsty, I am sure they wouldn't be clapping these alcoholic theatrics.
This lack of reality sadly continues into the second half and whilst provides for some amusing scenes which include a drunk Flanagan destroying a piece of artwork at an exhibition, again spoils the movie a little. Add to this some amazingly cheesy but equally memorable dialogue, which includes the Gina Gershon's as Coral asking Brian for an Orgasm, we are talking cocktails here, and you have a movie which really is quite laughable but in being so also hugely entertaining.
What is also very apparent is that despite having a strong cast which includes the likes of Bryan Brown, Elisabeth Shue and Gina Gershon "Cocktail" is basically a Tom Cruise vehicle in the same manner as "Top Gun" and "The Color of Money". Not that I'm complaining as Cruise with his permanent grin and glint in his eye, fits the bill perfectly as Brian Flanagan, a man who wants to make a fortune but also has an eye for the ladies, well he does manage to bed Gina Gershon, Elisabeth Shue and Lisa Banes in the course of one movie. This was typical Cruise before he started to take himself seriously as an actor and whilst it may not be a brilliant performance from the young Cruise it is definitely what he did best in the 80s.
Where "Cocktail" is slightly let down is the lack of character development for the supporting cast most notably in under using the brilliant Bryan Brown as Doug Coughlin. Yes the first half sees the bonding between Coughlin and Flanagan as the old cynic teaches him not only the tricks of the bar trade but also Coughlin's law which has gems such as 'When you can see the colour of their panties, you know you've got what it takes'. But then the second half fails to carry this on and whilst their relationship progresses Brown seems to have been left on the bench in a part of the movie which was crying out for someone who could handle the more serious side of it.
Sadly the delightful Elisabeth Shue is stuck with such a poor character, in the form of love interest Jordan Mooney, that she has no chance to really define her character, which has the knock on effect of making the onscreen romance and sex scene between Flanagan and Mooney seem completely contrived. Some might say that the poor characters were typical of the movies in the 80s and to some extent I agree. Would "Cocktail" have been better if they used the supporting characters more, I am not honestly sure, but it would probably have given "Cocktail" a different feel, one which may not have been so entertaining.
One thing which does stand out about "Cocktail" is a brilliant soundtrack which for those who have fond memories of 80s music will undoubtedly enjoy but also with the addition of a few older ones, it gives the movie a real party feel. With a mix of pop, reggae and a bit of good old fashioned Rock n Roll it really has something for everyone, from 'All Shook Up' through to 'Don't Worry, Be Happy'. But the songs which really stick in your mind have to be 'Addicted to Love' and 'Hippy Hippy Shake' as well as a drunken renditions of 'Chantilly Lace' all of which appear in the first half. What is very clear is that the "Cocktail" soundtrack is of a huge importance and it is the driving force behind many of the scenes, especially those which feature the cocktail juggling.
Even though “Cocktail” is over 20 years old it has aged amazingly well and even though some of the 80s fashions are very funny it is still really enjoyable to watch today, but then I think this is a movie which will appeal to those who enjoyed the 80s and remember Cruise when he didn't take himself so seriously. Personally I would put "Cocktail" in a similar category to "Dirty Dancing", it may not be great but it is really enjoyable and very memorable.
What this all boils down to is that whilst I completely enjoy "Cocktail" I have to admit that it really is one of the cheesiest movies to have come out of the 80s. Yes it has its flaws but it is still amazingly entertaining and even though the second half of the movie is less than memorable it is still reasonably engaging. You definitely don't watch "Cocktail" for Oscar winning acting but again in its own cheesy way, with the over the top gestures and corny dialogue it is very entertaining. But most importantly the soundtrack is for me exceptional and gives the whole movie a real party atmosphere with a great selection of up tempo songs which drive forward even the most boring of scenes. Plus of course you have the completely over the top cocktail juggling, but then it works and makes you want to flip a bottle or two.