We intended to watch a documentary about Banksy, but Netflix has apparently removed it from their roster. No matter, we soldier on, and in spite of having no fancy cocktails like we had intended, we went ahead and watched the summer Tom Cruise classic, Cocktail.
Brooke, kick us off. I believe you had seen pieces of this before, but not the whole thing? Tell us your first impressions, and why would it make the list?
B: I’d definitely seen bits and pieces of this movie before, specifically, lots of snippets of Tom behind the bar tossing drinks around. I think my key impression of Cocktail is this: When you’re hot, you’re hot, and 1988 Tom Cruise was hot enough to carry an entire movie about a guy who wants to get rich quick spending years sorting through his nonsense on his way to not getting rich quick, but getting a girl pregnant real quick. In spite of its relative lack of plot, I think I know exactly why Cocktail landed on the Required Viewing list. You, my dear friend, love a picture about dreamers trying to find their way, see also: The Thing Called Love and Center Stage. So, when you blend young Tom Cruise on random journey to the top of the lounge food chain in ’80s New York, and beyond.
AM, tell me, am I right about what earned Cocktail its place of honor? And while you’re at it, consider this, Cocktail has an astonishingly dismal 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Did all those critics get it wrong?
A: FIVE percent? Wow. I would have thought it’d at least garner achievement in the 40% range. I don’t agree with the hordes, but no matter. I hadn’t thought about my proclivity for “apprentice” journeys, but you’re right. I find it fun to watch people learn their craft and find their way of doing it, outside of what convention tells them.
Cocktail, as you mentioned, is now the only way I picture New York in the ’80s. When the boroughs were no-man’s land and Manhattan and it’s glitz and glamor were the epitome of success. Does it have a thin plot? Perhaps, as it’s true, we don’t see a lot of character development outside of Cruise’s character. This was a late childhood entry (if you’re wondering if it was watched over pizza on a Saturday night, you’d be right), and was the moment for me when Tom Cruise became a superstar. This show is all about him, so whether you like this movie depends entirely on his character.
Brooke, tell me, what did you like about this film? What elements lost you? And tell me your favorite Coughlin’s Law, if you can recall.
B: What I liked about Cocktail is a pretty simple conversation. Tom Cruise. I like Tom Cruise. He may be Scientology’s golden boy and bucking to be bonafide Looney Tunes, but he’s always interesting on screen. Action, comedy, vampire drama, whatever it is, I’m there for Mr. Cruise and his star quality. I would blame Jerry Maguire, but we all know it was Interview with the Vampire that forever won my adoration for Tom. The other element I loved was the v. casual ambulance driver in Jamaica. He’s earned his own mythos among our silly in-jokes and I love him for it.
I was deeply disinterested in Coughlin and the toxic bro relationship at the core of this movie. I mean, the guy’s an asshole and you let him bait you over and over again until he dies one of the most narcissistic deaths ever committed to film. Nah, fam, I’m not there for it. Also the treatment of female servers in this picture. C’mon, man! But as much I dislike Coughlin, his so-called Laws were pretty interesting. I found a full list, thanks to the Google, and would say that “Anything else is always something better,” has to be my favorite. It has a kind of tragic poetry that speaks to the human condition of longing so much for things we don’t have that we forget to enjoy what’s right in front of us. I rather suspect that’s not what he meant though.
Same questions back to you, AM. And further, tell me, what cocktail would you have Tom whip up for you?
A: Yeah, you know that ambulance driver spends pretty much his entire day transporting drunk teenagers to cool off after drinking champagne in the sun all day. He goes on the short list of people that’d be fun to tour around Jamaica with, for sure.
And yes, Coughlin and Tom have quite the bad friendship. He sort of bullies Tom into taking the job at TGI Friday’s in the first place, deliberately hooks up with Gina Gershon to prove a point (what, that you shouldn’t tell your buddies that the sex with your girlfriend is great?), throws a bro bet at Tom to get him to cheat on Elisabeth Shue, and then yes, kills himself because he’s a business failure and an alcoholic. Yuck. On a side note, I have never understood why Gina was pissed in the first place; was she bait from Coughlin from the beginning? Again, to what end? Tom’s better off without her.
The bets remind me a lot of Back to the Future, when Marty simply cannot handle being called a chicken. Is this something that as women we just don’t experience? I remember making fun bets with my dad when I was a kid (of note, whether or not we owned Dumbo on the VHS “clamshell case” or if we just had a TV recording of it on VHS … ahh the things you talk about in the 90s while camping). But I just don’t think this is something that I’ll ever get. Tom, dude. Just walk away. It’s not worth it.
I was surprised that the list of Coughlin’s Laws was so short! I have to go with “Drink or be gone,” because it’s sassy. As for cocktails, my drink of choice is the classic vodka soda with lime, or an Aperol spritz (which are becoming quite the summer 2018 cocktail, but we’ve been drinking them for a couple years now). But to have a pro bartender like Tom Cruise make me a drink? I’d like him to come up with something with 4 layers and probably flaming on top. Because why not?
Brooke, have you ever taken a bet? And what’s the drink you’d make Tom whip up for you?
B: I think the only bets I’ve taken have been similar to yours — “No, we moved to that place in 2001,” or “Tom Hanks was too in that movie, fight me!” — because just like I’m not much of a gambler and I was never a “dare” girl in Truth or Dare, I just don’t see that the potential gain ever merits the potential loss. I mean, if my life ever becomes a rom-com where I might end up with some dreamboat if I take a bet, I’ll allow you to bait me into shenanigans. but until then, hard pass. Wait, is this why I’ve never gotten swept up into a rom-com narrative? Am I too risk averse?Pausing my impending identity crisis for a moment, I think I would request that Tom create a brand new concoction based on my preferences and in my honor. This would probably be a mistake since it takes him like five minutes to make the simplest drinks because he does so much showboating, but if I’m going to deal with his schtick, I better get a signature drink, dammit.
AM, I think we’ve covered most of the Cocktail ground available to us, but I have one final question for you about Tom and Elisabeth — do you think those crazy kids are going to make it? Also how mad were you when I predicted she was having twins (and also every other reveal in this thing)?
A: I can’t be mad when you telegraph reveals, because I do it too. I know we both take quite a bit of pride in predicting the future, so I wasn’t surprised when you correctly guessed the twin reveal. And also, you can’t be mad about a bartender who does bottle flips and dances whilst he mixes. I don’t even know where one would go to get such fancy drink, but maybe Jamaica?
Elisabeth Shue is one of my favorite actresses, and she’s my favorite here despite the lack of character development. I get why she wasn’t honest with Tom about her family’s money because the only thing the dude talks about is how to make it big. Frankly, Tom doesn’t deserve her and her magic waterfall twins, but I do think they have a good vibe. I really hope that they do make it, although with twins to support, I think his chances of becoming a self-made millionaire are officially dead. Which brings me back to the moral of the story and a tie back to your favorite Coughlin advice: if you pay attention to what’s in front of you, you might find that it’s everything you ever wanted. Miller’s Law.
B: Did you just become the Coughlin in this friendship? Do I have to quit my job now and learn how to throw drinks as a low-level alcoholic? To be honest, I don’t think I have it in me. You know I can’t even be trusted to prepare a cheese plate after three drinks. Actually, you know what, I can’t pursue this hilarious line of hypothetical questions anymore. The pressure is too much. And we don’t have enough toxic masculinity in us to spiral out the way these two did.
Let’s get a mixed drink and call it a day.
Next time we’re turning the clocks back to an even older, grimier, crime-ier version of New York. Courtesy of Marty Scorcese.