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Cruising to an eighties classic.....
on 25 March 2002
Big hair, bigger teeth, neon lights, greed, romance, loyalty, betrayal, New York to Jamaica and back again, sex on the beach and schnapps made from peach.....oh and Robert Palmer. Welcome to the wonderful wet look Wella world of Cocktail. Gloriously reproduced on DVD this is a great slice of eighties, with the Cruiser in one of his most famous roles.
The story is not a complicated one, college boy goes to the big city to try and 'make it', fails, get sidetracked with bar job while trying to 'make it' in the big city, meets father figure he never had mentor, gets betrayed, falls in love, betrays, is left with moral dilemma's and has to re-evaluate his philosophy on life in general.
Its plot is slightly underrated, it tries taking on many genres, coming of age, love story, buddy movie, and gives you just enough of each to keep the film steady and varied, also it is overshadowed by the casting. At the time Cruise was box office dynamite, so the point of the story is kind of glossed over in favour of a viechel for him. This is typical of laziness on the part of studios as they know the film will make money on the back of the name on the poster. Elizabeth Shue (as the love interest Jordan Mooney) although relatively unknown then has proved what a great actress she is (see Leaving Las Vegas). On reflection now it is a bit dated, but its the trademark performances and nostalgia that make it classic viewing.
Cruise, as Brian Flanagan the New Jersey college boy, puts in a staple turn, grinning his way through a large portion of the film. Shue is convincing enough as Jordan, the troubled young artist who falls for the Cruiser, but it really Bryan Brown who steals the show as the rouge bartender Doug Coughlin. He really breathes life into the character and gives the film an amusing, richer edge that otherwise leave proceedings a bit stale. He's helped slightly with the script which gives him some great lines ("The bartender, is the aristocrat of the working class" is one of my favourites) and, to be fair, a more interesting and rounded character than Cruise. You can tell he had a ball playing it. Pair that with Cruises' naive Flannagan and you have a great duo who complement each other well. Even physically, the slightly crumpled older wiser Brown in direct contrast with the young clean cut youthful Cruise.
Anyone who's rolled up their shirt sleeves and thrown mixers (unsuccessfully) around a bar will have a soft spot for this film, as well as making you want to be a 'bartender' when you grew up! You don't have to think too hard while watching it, just sit back and enjoy, slightly cheesy but, hey, that's the eighties for you. I don't think anyone involved with the film was under any delusions that they were going to win an Oscar for their efforts but it still stands as good Saturday night in fare that is watchable again and again.