Synopsis: A talented New York bartender takes a job at a bar in Jamaica and falls in love.
Stars: Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown, Elisabeth Shue, Kelly Lynch, Gina Gershon
Director: Roger Donaldson
Running Length: 104 minutes
TMMM Score: (7.5/10)
Review: Mention Cocktail to most people and you’re going to get a particular response. It seems most people that grew up in the 80s have a fond place in their heart for this Cruise vehicle and if it isn’t like a fine wine that gets better with age, it can be likened to a nice daiquiri that is refreshing, goes down easily, but may leave you with some regrets in the morning. Still…you’ll be ready to have another round in no time flat.
After The Color of Money and before Rain Man there was Cocktail and the red-hot Cruise has never looked better or been more appealing as the young Brian Flanagan, an ex-military lad that comes to the big bad Apple with the hopes of making a million in the business world like many of his yuppie peers. Let’s not forget that this was 1988 when everyone wanted to get rich quick and would do pretty much anything to get it. Sensibilities were maybe less realistic then and to quote 1987’s Wall Street, greed was good. Flanagan really represented his age group at the time, the go-getters that had the stuff to go far but were sidelined for one reason or another.
Flanagan’s problem is that with only a high school diploma he’s no competition for those coming out of business schools and is therefore persona non grata to the NYC wolves he interviews with. Frustrated and running out of money, he finds himself walking along a NYC street where he spots a Help Wanted sign in front of a bar/restaurant. Though the bar is never named, it’s clear from the uniforms and some long shots outdoors that it’s TGI Fridays’s…a classic 80s setting.
Behind the TGI-bar is Doug Coughlin (Brown) who takes a chance on young Flangan by showing him the ropes and mentoring him in his rise to popular bartender by night and community college student by day. Soon it’s obvious that Flanagan has landed the best business opportunity of all…himself. He and Coughlin are courted by a local bar and that’s when the troubles begin. Friendly off work competition between the men soon spill over to personal betrayals and it isn’t long before Flanagan finds himself bartending in Jamaica (just go with it).
Some time has passed when we meet up with Flanagan pouring mai-tais for bored housewives and the vacationing masses. By chance Coughlin shows up with more life lessons for Flanagnan who is also getting involved with Jordan (Shue who has never looked better). The love story that grows between Brian and Jordan is what has kept this movie memorable for two decades. It helps greatly that Cruise and Shue had chemistry that was right on the money. What starts off as a semi Wall Street knockoff blossoms into a semi chick flick that guys will go right along with. Don’t tell me you don’t’ remember the waterfall scene…one of a series of classic moments from the film.
Viewing it again after several years I’m struck by just how little plot there is involved with the movie. Director Donaldson (Species, No Way Out, The Bank Job) keeps things moving at such a justified pace that you don’t really register that the movie is pretty much a slice of life drama set to a timeless 80s score. OK..maybe the soundtrack isn’t exactly timeless but it’s chock full of memorable tunes that date the movie in the best possible sense of the word.
Many have questioned why Cruise would take this movie between arguably two of his most memorable performances. I’ve long since given up on trying to figure out what motivates the actor but have gradually started to trust that he knows exactly what he’s doing as he puts new notches on his acting belt. Off-screen antics aside, Cruise never gives less than he has (witness his fearlessly excellent performance in Rock of Ages if you don’t believe me) and he’s smart enough to pick material that will be remembered.
The winner of the 1989 Razzie Award for Worst Picture (unbelievably beating Caddyshack II and Rambo III) is Cocktail a classic along the lines of Risky Business and A Few Good Men? Nope. Is it as enjoyably cheesy as Days of Thunder and Top Gun? Yes. And that’s fine by me. So have another Cocktail, put your feet up and just enjoy it even though in the light of day you may hate yourself for liking it