Friday, November 24, 2017

cocktail [1988]

i don't know if one is born with a movie obsession or if said obsession is developed and cultivated by an lifetime exposure to cinema.  i can't identify when my own love of movies developed.  i had a lot of help developing my love because i had parents who enabled my movie-going habits by taking me and my brothers to the drive-in theaters -- of which sac and the greater sacramento area had in abundance -- and the many local matinee theaters.  it is useful to note that when i was a wee pup there was no internet, no DVDs or VHS tapes, and even TV was pretty crappy.  if you wanted to see a movie you better get your ass to the theater before it went away, forever!  in short, i got in the habit of going to the movies all the time.

which might explain why i saw this movie upon its release in 1988.  i am no tom cruise fan.  i did -- do -- have a long-standing crush on co-star elisabeth shue, and bryan brown, who plays cruise's bartender mentor in this flick under review, is always an onscreen delight.  cocktail is not a good movie, nor is it a movie so bad it is good.  and yet, i have an affection for it.  not the least because it stars the aformentionened elisabeth shue.  but i did see this flick in the theaters with my brother, his date, and the girl i was dating at the time.  it was an important time for me as i was regaining my health after a long bout of severe panic disorder.

sitting in a darkened theater for a couple of hours was no mean feat to me at the time.  this tom cruise vehicle was the perfect foil against my anxiety for it barely has any drama.  or plot.  watching this pic was like a flat sine wave that signals neither despair, fear, or anger.  the movie is also a document of its time, the 1980s, a decade that liked to think of itself as dashing with a flash of gritty class.  cruise plays a young man working on his degree.  he dreams of striking it rich.  he works as a bartender and discovers he has a talent for mixing drinks, and for performance behind, and on top, of the bar.  cruise is shortly taken under wing by brown and together they become famous as the bottle heaving duo of manhattan.  their choreographed numbers where they juggle booze bottles in the air like circus performers punctuated by poems decried as they stand on the bar to their audience cum customers becomes legend.

these bartenders' dream is to open their own place in the big city called cocktails and dreams.  and yet, ambition, greed and pride get in their way.  cruise scurries off to jamaica to tend bar on the beach and brown goes in to debt as he courts the hoi polloi.  when they meet again it is over drinks on brown's yacht.  but before then, cruise meets 'nice girl' -- i put that phrase in quotes because i think such labels are stupid, and yet that is how she is described in the film and in the press package -- shue.  she is from a rich family who thinks cruise is scum.  whatever will he do?

i won't bore you with the details.  this movie gravitated into my orbit last week when i watched it on TV after last seeing it a couple of decades ago.  man!  this movie is so '80s frrom its synth soundtrack -- including a number from the beach boys that hit the charts in 1988, to its dayglo lighting, and miami vice-type sets.  the 1980s was supposed to be about glitz and lucre.  i guess all eras like glitz and lucre, but in the '80s these things were made onscreen, and in literature, as the apex of civilization.  and this flick is no different in that claim for money as the highest value.  both cruise and brown get what they want, money, but each pay a different price for it.  and cruise does get the girl.  shue's character is written more as decoration for cruise and less as a full-blooded human being, and yet her talent prevents her character from being a shell of a person.  even in such a limited role elisabeth shue is graceful and deep.

furthermore, we rarely get these kind of comedy/dramas in the multiplexes anymore.  i suppose these kinds of stories are found today on streaming platforms.  and yet, the pleasure of going to the movies, the act of buying the tickets, standing in line for the popcorn, and settling into your seat as the dark descends and the trailers begin, is magic.  one that i lost focus because i watch most of my movies at home either on TV, disc or streaming platforms.  lately i have broken my shell and i've seen several movies in the theater since the summer.  the tickets are usually bought online using my smart phone.  the multiplexes have become something else, a place where you can buy lunch, have a beer or glass of wine, and the chairs are barcaloungers replete with headrests and footstools.  but the buying of the popcorn has not changed.  i find comfort in that last fact, let it always be salty, buttery and crunchy.


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