Fresh off his finest movie yet (Top Gun), Tom Cruise was launching his career with one success movie after the other. It wouldn’t take long for him to become Hollywood’s favorite number 1-son, graced with a plastic-perfect, toothbrush-white grin and devilishly handsome boyish looks.
In 1988 Tom Cruise was only a promising new talent, and far from the billion-dollar golden goose we’ve come to know today. In other words, he was still stacking up as many great movies as possible, trying to cope with the dazzling amount of much more impressive younger talents in America – especially when it came down to sheer acting – such as Kiefer Sutherland or Kevin Bacon.
Irregardless of his sappy acting abilities, Tom Cruise has always managed to reign in large audiences for almost every movie he’s ever made …
To say Cocktail is a classic is pushing the envelope. Fact is, the movie is dated by today’s terms and not nearly the well-remembered Hollywood movie some of his other movies are, such as Days of Thunder. Back in the late ’80s, the movie was a success and probably with good reason. But nowadays, it’s nothing short of a simple romance story with paper-thin acting performances and an ending that’s more dubious than satisfying.
Let’s start with the bad and work our way up to the good, shall we?
Cocktail is basically a story about a young boy who doesn’t have a clue what he wants to for a job. He’s just returned from the army and aims to become a salesman, but lacks both the diploma and the skills to do so. In a last attempt, he walks in a bar and becomes … you guessed it! … a barman.
From there – probably through the genes of his father – he quickly learns the tools of the trade. This means: he knows how to make complex cocktails, swing a few bottles in the air whilst passing a few winks here and there to some gorgeous ladies, all the while serving as many customers as possible.
Tom Cruise was better in Top Gun. Let’s be honest. The movie was better, the writing was better, the characters were more fleshed out. Even his acting was pretty good. Come early ’90s, he would also shape up his acting skills a bit, as proven in A Few Good Men and The Firm.
Alas, in Cocktail Tom Cruise basically plays a different version of himself. He has that sexy smile, a suave attitude that would swoop a whole batch of sensuous women and the constant presence of fame and fortune in his life. Though he plays a character who’s struggling for a buck, he still seems to be able to dress in first-rate clothing. What’s up with that??
Of course, we can’t blame Tom Cruise. The man was only just starting to tip-toe his way around Hollywood.
The writing of the movie is also at times feeble. His character is so thin that – even if you were to hold it under a microscope – it would still be nothing more than a good-looking barman dancing to ’80s pop tunes and flirting with women all around.
With a better director and slightly improved writing, Cocktail could’ve become a cult-classic perhaps!
Now for the good. The acting of sidekick Bryan Brown is a much needed improvement over the flimsy gimmicks of Tom Cruise. He actually gives the movie a certain depth character-wise. He’s not the only one. Elisabeth Shue also adds weight to the acting. Her performance as the crushed, disappointed girlfriend is so well acted you actually feel for her.
And in that moment lies the greatest weakness of the movie. How can you root for a guy who betrays his girlfriend? Elisabeth Shue is so beautiful in this movie, so innocent, so honest and well-behaved that the abuse and suffering Tom Cruise brings upon her makes you dislike his character very much. And if the main character of a mainstream Hollywood movie becomes less attractive, the story and the entire movie also suffers.
Luckily, in the end, things turn out alright. By the time the credits roll by, you will have enjoyed a movie that’s quite ok.
Reason for it is that the first half of the movie is great, great fun to watch! And in the second part – though much weaker and at times even a tad boring – it becomes apparent that Tom Cruise‘s character isn’t a bad guy. He’s just a boy who craves for attention, fame and fortune.
And in that perspective Tom Cruise has never played a character sooo close to his own true liking … it’s like watching Tom Cruise play Tom Cruise.
did you know?
This film is listed among The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made in Golden Raspberry-award founder John Wilson’s book THE OFFICIAL RAZZIE® MOVIE GUIDE.
Give it to me short:
Cocktail is of course a movie that’s had reasonable success in the ’80s, pumping up the career of Hollywood-golden goose Tom Cruise. But after nearly 30 years of cinema, this meager love story is nothing more than a fancy boy craving for money and fame rather than staying true to the one woman who truly cared about him.
Tom Cruise’s character is not one for the liking. He betrays his girlfriend. He becomes mad when things don’t go his way (even puts up a decent fight once or twice). And he would rather sleep with an old rich lady, because in his very words: ‘When a guy puts up a bet, you gotta do it!’ Ridiculous is the first word that comes to mind.
Luckily, actors Bryan Brown and the ever beautiful Elisabeth Shue are there to pick up the pieces that their fellow actor has dropped along the way. Both actors are increasingly better, and one cannot help to think that maybe this movie would’ve been better-remembered had the writing, directing and acting of Tom Cruise only been so much more substantial.
In the end, Cocktail is an ok ’80s movie. You can watch it once, maybe twice, but it’s not a classic for the ages …
Maybe it becomes better after a couple of Bloody Mary’s & Mojito’s!