The Eighties Fever: ‘Cocktail’ (1988)

What happens when you review thirty year old films from the perspective of someone who gets classified as a millennial, but wouldn’t really consider himself one? With both popular and obscure films on the list, it’s a mixture of new insights into old films, all while celebrating what might just be the greatest decade ever. This is The Eighties Fever.

Viewing: First Time

I always enjoy watching movies featuring a pre-action star Tom Cruise. It is fun to see Cruise more down to earth and playing characters that the audience can relate a bit more too. On a related note, I crave fun films, as do I think a lot of us do. I can easily look past a flawed or clichéd film as long as I get a sense of enjoyment from watching it. Cocktail checks most of the criteria off the ’80s Drama Must Haves’ list, and in the hands of a cast of unknowns it might have flopped pretty hard. However, never bet against young Cruise.

Tom Cruise easily lights up the film as Brian Flanagan, a young man recently out of the service hoping to make it back on Wall Street. However, Wall Street wants experience so the best Flanagan can do is find a part-time job as a bartender while taking business classes. Flanagan is taught the tricks of the trade from Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown), a veteran New York bartender. Together, the two hope to open up a bar called “Cocktails & Dreams” which could be the first in a franchise.

Today, Cruise is known for his dedication to the craft going as far as to perform his own stunts. His resume includes climbing the Burj Khalifa and being strapped to the sides of airplanes. Cocktail dials things back a notch and features Cruise and Brown performing some simple, yet impressive parlor tricks. Spinning bottles and glasses may look easy but I have seen enough mishaps to know better. In fact, a lot of Cocktail‘s charm comes from watching Cruise behind the bar pouring drinks and jamming to “Addicted to Love.” It is hard to not enjoy yourself when you can tell the cast must have loved every minute shooting on set.

However, the film isn’t all cocktails and dreams as we are dealt with a number of moments that add a solid dose of drama to the plot. Flanagan falls for Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue), a young artist, but loses her when he takes a bet from Doug to seduce a wealthy aristocrat. All attempts to win Mooney back fail despite the reveal that she is pregnant with his child. But, as are the rules of 80s cinema, he manages to win her back by the time the credits roll.

Doug’s death is another factor which escalates the plot. He killed himself because his life was a sham. It is the motivation Flanagan needs to get his life together. Frankly, walking in on my best friend after he committed suicide would probably get me to reconsider what I was doing with my life too. These added dramatic moments add an emotional depth that, although does not do much to elevate the story, injects some realism into the characters.

Way at the beginning I mentioned how Cocktail could have easily been forgotten had it featured a cast of unknown talent. While Tom Cruise is definitely what is keeping this film in the public eye, Elisabeth Shue deserves some of the credit. Although she is not as prominent in Hollywood anymore, Shue managed to build up quite a filmography in the eighties with roles in the Back to the Future sequels, Adventures in Babysitting, and The Karate Kid. Not only is she a sight for sore eyes, but her acting comes across as natural and easygoing which helps to trap you into the film’s narrative. Cruise and Shue make for a delightful pairing and it is a shame that this is their only collaboration together.

Cocktail might be a by-the-book 80s comedy-drama with a few twists thrown in but it is damn enjoyable. In fact, I can honestly say it is one of the best 80s movies I have seen. I will reiterate my method of movie watching. If a film can make me smile, laugh, and make time fly then it has done its job. Cocktail may have won the Worst Picture award at that year’s annual Golden Raspberry Awards, but the ceremony’s founder John Wilson even admitted in his book The Official Razzie Movie Guide that it ranked as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.

So pour yourself a cocktail and watch this film. You could definitely watch worse.

Grade: 8.8/10