‘Everything ends badly, otherwise, it would never end…’
It is genuinely astonishing that I had never seen Cocktail before until this week. Combining, as it does, numerous things that I hold dear – bartending, ‘80s cinema, little Tommy Cruise – Cocktail is so far up my street it’s in charge of the neighbourhood watch. One of the first proper articles I ever wrote even referenced Cocktail (and began my long relationship with pretending I’ve watched stuff in the service of cinema writing).
Brian Flanagan (Cruise) is a cocky and charming bartender with aspirations to make his name in the world of commerce. Doug Coughlin (pronounced Coglin, because America) is his grizzled mentor (as played by Bryan Brown). A parade of beautiful women also appear, namely Gina Gershon, Kelly Lynch and Elisabeth Shue, but only the latter is treated to any kind of character arc or meaningful contribution. The others exist only to service Flanagan and Coughlin, often both of them, despite the fact these are perhaps two of the campest characters since Maverick and Ice Man in Top Gun (I can sense a theme developing here…).
Cocktail is an awful film, of course. Of that there can be absolutely no doubt. The script veers between being ridiculous and outright offensive, Cruise’s performance really is cringe worthy to the extreme, and the wild change in tone at the film’s conclusion is both jarring and ineffective. And yet… I absolutely loved Cocktail. I loved the gravitas attached to bartending (it is a vocation after all), I loved the repeated use of ‘Coughlin’s Law’, I loved the incredibly cheesy soundtrack. It is, in essence, classic ‘80s and classic Tom Cruise. You can almost taste the cocaine from the meetings that must have birthed this shit show. The greed is good era is palpable. The haircuts are wild. This is the ‘80s in excelsis – and it’s wonderful.
I can’t imagine anyone under the age of 30 finding anything other than bewilderment and anger whilst watching Cocktail, but if you grew up in that heady era where mullets were the height of fashion and all music was just funky bass guitar lines and nothing else, then you will love Cocktail as I did.
As a final word, this should be required viewing for any bartender. It’s as close to a bible as they will ever get.