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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Retro Review: Cocktail (1988)

Cast: Tom Cruise, Elisabeth Shue, Brian Brown, Kelly Lynch, Gina Gershon, Ellen Foley 
Genre: Romantic Comedy Drama
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Worldwide Gross: $171.5 million 

Plot: Brian Flanagan wants a high paying marketing job but needs a business degree first. Working as a bartender to pay for college, Flanagan is mentored by his veteran boss, Doug Coughlin (Brian Brown). Together, their showy tricks and charisma command large crowds and tip payments- until Flanagan and the cynical Coughlin have a falling out. Flanagan moves to Jamaica to raise enough money to open his own bar, where he falls in love with artist, Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue)

'An Entertaining - Yet Idealised Tale Of Dreams and Aspirations Hidden Beneath All The Razzmatazz' 

It is his earlier fare where we see Tom Cruise at his happiest, smiley self and of him enjoying himself before he went down the Scientology route. This is Tom Cruise at his most relaxed performance and a side to his performance as Brian that we haven't seen much of in his latter movies that came after Cocktail. Cocktail is an interesting and entertaining movie, which doesn't offer anything spectacular of the sort but can still hold its own. If we were to measure this movie's reputation, it would fall more in line with Flashdance: a movie that is aptly supported by a cool soundtrack but with much more thorough performances. 

It is a classic rags-to-riches, roller-coaster of a ride, fish- out- of- water tale with a few bumps along the way centering a young student who is taken under his wings by his mentor, who in turn, helps him achieve his ultimate dreams and ambitions in owning his own bar. 

Without having read anything about it and just by judging the poster, I was expecting this movie to be a serious drama. When it comes to the comedy, it is very low-key and downplayed and though there is little of it, Cocktail is still a very good and likeable, guilty pleasure yet so-bad-it's good movie that appeals to general audiences, in particular. After reading all the negative and slating reviews, that include winning an infamous Razzie award for Worst Picture, and having watched this film, I didn't have much of an issue with it.

Even though it is considered as a guilty-pleasure, there are actually some interesting scenes and dramatic moments as well that makes Cocktail a potentially legible drama. Brian makes up with Doug after they fall out and they become pals again, only for tragedy to strike again for Brian in more ways than one. Some will think when watching this film the final act shifts a little too much to the dark side & was a tiny bit unwarranted. Not to mention it was out of the blue and there were no signs that indicated that Doug was experiencing emotional problems in the lead up to his suicide. Which was disappointing. 

Notwithstanding all that, Tom Cruise delivers an impressive, if not the most challenging performance of his career (Jerry Maguire followed by A Few Good Men tops it); I was surprised at how good he was, not just with the making cocktails part but in his acting and portrayal as Brian. He does some stupid stuff along the way, he shows his flaws but ultimately he comes through in the end. 

At the 35th minute mark, Cocktail really starts to take shape as a movie when Brian discovers the girl, Cora he has been going out with, has been seeing Doug and he decks Doug in disgust and quits his job to head off to Jamaica. From there onwards, he opens up his own bar, bumps into Jordan, who is a free-spirited and seemingly impoverished artist, and romance ensues between herself and Brian. Although he does a stupid thing and sleeps with some woman he met at a bar after that. It is only when Brian realises how lucky he is to have Jordan in his life and of whom understands his passion and shares his vision for what he wants and what they want, that they realise their love for each other is what matters. Regardless of all the struggles, they have to overcome. The love story aspect was well conceived. 

It's not as dated as some people have said it is (it doesn't look too dated from a visual standpoint) and given as I had rather different expectations of what I had envisaged Cocktail to be, it literately surprised me in more ways than one and in a good way as well. I was also surprised at the amount of mature depth it had for a movie about bar-tending. But that it offered so much more too, what with a good supporting cast and the relationships aspect of it and the different women Brian encounters and comes into contact with, at work and in his personal life. 

Elisabeth Shue looks great as Jordan and has great chemistry with Tom Cruise: as Jordan, she is smart, sweet, fun. It is yet another impressive and understated performance that I've enjoyed of hers. The late Paul Benedict aka Mr Bentley of The Jeffersons makes a brief appearance as one of Brian's college lecturers.

Cocktail is one of those films where you have to enter this movie with very low expectations and not overthink about it too much and just enjoy it for what it delivers. 

Final Verdict:

Cocktail is a dramedy, more so than as a drama, with a few enduring moments and although the narrative could have been a lot stronger, it is not lacking in entertainment. It may not have skyrocketed Tom Cruise's status, but it definitely helped solidified it as one of Hollywood's most successful and bankable actors of the 1980s and 1990s. 

The derisory critical reviews and ridiculously low IMDb rating don't justify how much I have found this movie to be a thoroughly enjoyable- yet simple and casual experience. It is as energetic in places and watchable and still holds up today as it did back then in 1988. Okay, it is not one of the most earth-shattering movies and it isn't a masterpiece, but it is watchable, entertaining and pleasant with a premise that does its job. 

If you're seeking for something unashamedly enjoyable and not too heavy plot-wise, with impressive and well-acted performances by the likes of Cruise and Elisabeth Shue, then Cocktail is one beverage of a movie worth sipping. 


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