R004 Cocktail

(1988, Drama-Romance, color)


Mike Nelson

Let’s just dispense with [shirt] buttons altogether.

Rating: *

In a nutshell:

Yet another Tom Cruise character gets rewarded for arrogance and promiscuity.


The prequel to Coyote Ugly.It would take a fair amount of expertise in advanced trigonometry to map out all the love triangles, quadrangles, and dodecahedrons in this movie, and since I haven’t even looked at a parabola in years, you’ll just have to bear with me while I fake it.

Standard Tom Cruise Character A (Brian) comes home from military service with the intent to “take the world by storm.” Imagine his surprise when he discovers that the world’s most powerful corporations do not hire undereducated, inexperienced former servicemen off the street directly into upper management. An attempt to work his way through college as a bartender goes awry, due to a combination of factors that include a number of viciously incompetent professors and the introduction of Old, Wiser Character B (Bryan Brown as Doug). Doug spouts dubious platitudes in an Australian accent while teaching Brian to ape own showy brand of bartending. Brian soon abandons college entirely to pursue a career as a juggler/beat poet/alcoholic beverage preparation specialist.

Characters A (Brian) and B (Doug) form tight bond, determining to gather the essential money to bring C (a plan to open a bar together) to fruition. While they discuss their financial options, Brian spends his nights inserting Tab A into female bar patrons D, E, and F, finally settling on G (Gina Gershon as Coral), arbitrarily chosen as his One True Love. In order to prove a point about something or other—I defy to you identify what—Doug goes out of his way to insert Tab B into Slot G as well, provoking a fight, which results in a rift, which leads to the temporary dissolution of their friendship.

I'm praying that bottle lands on his head.Character A (Brian) flees to Jamaica to pursue H (which stands for nothing in particular) where he meets and falls in love with Character I (Elizabeth Shue as Jordan.) However, Character B (Doug) soon follows with Character J (Kelly Lynch as Rich New Wife Kerry) in tow. There’s a lot of drinking, lovemaking, and a few ill-advised wagers. One of these wagers involves inserting Tab A into slot K (Rich Manhattan Executive Woman). Jordan finds out and runs back to her Manhattan home with a broken heart. Brian returns to Manhattan too, as the gigolo for Character K.

The A-K and B-J relationships both sour, ostensibly because Character A (Brian) is still in love with Character I (Jordan) and Character B (Doug) loses most of his new wife’s money in bad business deals, but mostly because A and B are both arrogant misogynists who wouldn’t know how to hold a long-term relationship together if their lives depended on it. Having long since used up the mystique of stunt bartending, the movie now lapses fully into soap opera mode.

Character I (Jordan) reveals that she’s secretly rich and also pregnant with Unborn Child L, a product of the prior A-I union. Plus, she’s very hurt and never wants to see Character A (Brian) again. Meanwhile Character B (Doug) falls into depression and eventually commits suicide by opening his own veins with a broken bottle. Brian finds the body and suicide note, which inspire him to Turn Over a New Leaf. He fights his way into Jordan’s penthouse apartment to profess his love and beg her to marry him. She accepts over the vociferous objections of Character M (Disapproving Wealthy Father) who disowns her, leaving her penniless. They open their own bar on a loan from Character N (Brian’s hard-nosed uncle) where Brian returns to his flashy, bottle-bouncing, bad poetry-spouting ways, under the watchful eye of his pregnant wife.


Inserting Tab A into Slot I.Today’s Important Life Lesson: leech from your family, not your lover(s). And I’m glad they brought that up, because…um…I don’t know. Personally, I think that leeching from anyone is best avoided, except in the direst of circumstances, and, through the haze of all the binge drinking and wanton fornication, the movie has sort of a “earn your own dreams” vibe to it too—right up to the point near the end where he just decides to borrow the cash from someone else. If Brian had thought to ask his uncle at the beginning of the movie, we wouldn’t have had to suffer through all the pointless debauchery.

I hate this movie with a burning, fiery passion. It’s not that it’s badly made or poorly written. From an objective standpoint, it’s probably a little trite, but is otherwise an above average romantic fantasy. Peering through glasses tinted with my moral outrage, however, I see that both these men drink constantly, and I mean constantly, and yet they are never drunk. (Yes, I do remember that one scene. No, behaving like applicants to Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks does not count as drunk.) They sleep with an incalculable number of promiscuous barflies, and yet they are never sick. I mean, come on. I know this is a fantasy, but it seems like it’s supposed to take place in a reasonable facsimile of the real world. Their eyes should be bloodshot enough to glow in the dark. They should always have splitting headaches, slurred speech, and/or delirium tremens, in addition to their duties as hosts to every last venereal disease known to man. I hate many gangsta rap videos regardless of quality for the same reason; they do their best not just to glamorize, but to proselytize an extremely unhealthy and morally reprehensible lifestyle.

Mike goes this commentary track alone, with a quip about the basketball game, “This scene could really use a shirtless Val Kilmer,” and an attempt to figure out Doug’s reasoning for sleeping with Coral, “The old ‘I slept with your girlfriend as a favor’ routine.” Brian’s innovative line, “Let’s dance,” is clarified as “Let’s undulate in a vaguely obscene way.” At one point, “Rugged Australian” Doug is referred to as “a cut-rate Crocodile Dundee.” The commentary is all right, but the movie drove me up the wall. I’ll be avoiding it in the future.