You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Saturday, November 22, 2003


Recently I finally finished watching the movie Cocktail starring Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown and Elisabeth Shue. What made it interesting for me was not the fact that I had to watch it in three separate sessons (the movie is only about 1 1/2 hours long my I am pinched for time so often now I shouldn't even be writing this), but that it represents one of the great canonical texts of the 1980's that I did not see as a youth.

I think it is up there with Cruise's other work from the decadent decade, Top Gun, which filled and fuelled adolescent male fantasies about militarism and hot older chicks. I even heard that it was deliberately made as a recruiting film for the US military. That would not surprise me.

Other "canonical" 1980's texts that I did not get to see at the time include that new age pot-boiler Ghost , and Swayze's other neurotic romantic sludge fest, Dirty Dancing. I am still yet to see Ghost in its entirety and have never more than looked at the cover of the latter flick. And yes, although Ghost does bust the margins of the 1980's as it is actually a 1990's release, it is heavily imbued with the prevailing 1980's zeitgeist.

The list goes on (Flashdance, Wall Street), but my point is that while others have seen digested and excreted these works of historical fiction, my contact with them is only indeirect through the attitudes, behaviours and values that my age-peers have osmotically imbibed from these texts.

As the "1980's" is a little "hip" at the moment, it seemed to be that this nostalgia fest was analogous to a form of psychoanalysis, where the antecedents of todays' behaviours and outlooks may be discovered through careful investigation of one's past - in this case, the collective past of 1980's pulp cultural garbage.

So let us turn to Cocktail - this is not intended to be a review. For an excellent take on the cultural smear campaign that was Cocktail, see this quasi-review from IMDB.

IMHO, Cocktail needs a series editing job, and as a budding proto-amateur film maker, here are my suggestions.

Cut the entry of Mr Cruise into the Big Apple - it is long and turgid, and also contains scenes which may offend some viewers (images of the WTC - we only spell them now, as writing "World Trade Center" merely inflames the passions of Those Who Would Attempt To Poison and Destroy My Brothers)

Also ditch all the job interview and college nonsense - absolutely irrelevant and quite pathetic. Indeed in the hope that Cocktail was the Cheesiest (C) movie of all time, I imagined that the professor from Business college who trashed Tom's essay might have appeared in the final scene as a drtunken Irish-Catholic boozehound, willing to let bygones be bygones and shout another round of drinks.

Keep the secnes with Bryan Brown and Tommy Boy yarning in the bar - it provides agood intro to the characters.

Cut straight to them throwing drinks arond, and then straight to the Cell Block where they throw drinks around. Bothe these scenes have excleent footage of the enormous coiffes sported by the male and female customers. Nothing like a coiffe (a kind of puffy mullet) to get the heart pumping, eh boys? And Tom's hairdo grows larger and smaller and then large again as the movie progresses. Watch for it next time.

Eliminate the loveless sub-plot with the photographer, but keep the fight between the two male protagonists over her. It will confuse the audience. You also need a little footage of her as she is in the key scene where Tom wants to go to Jamaica.

Keep all of the Jamaica footage, especialy the romantic plot with E. Shue. Cut after Tom walks off with the older, haggier, wealthier woman. The last scene is poor of Elisabth trying toforce some tears out on the beach.

It struck me later than any half-sensible audience should feel any sympathy towards her, as she has been dating one of the resort staff while on holidays,. Of course it's a fling. As far as she knows, the local bartender gets a new girl every Sunday when the next crop of tourists fly in from the States.

Eliminate all the scenes of Tom as a toy boy. Adds nothing to the film - but maybe keep the fight with the sculptor at the schmooze-in just for laughs.

Return to the main thrust of the narrative when Tom shows up at the diner and then at Elisabeth's pad in NYC, and continue from there. By the way, this reminded me of the scene from Family Man when Nick Cage shows up at Tia Leonie's apartment as she is moving to France, and it struck me that this is an archetypal film scene, where the male shows up at the female's house only to be rejected. With persistance, he wins her love. I am sure this scene is in dozens of films.

Continue film until end, including talk with uncle at bar, death of Bryan Brown etc.

What you have left is a schmatzy romantic comdedy with a tinge of sadness. Tom is not a sex-charged Lothario on heat for 98% of the film, and he comes across as a much more decent caharcter. There is tragedy in the death of Brown, but he has a much smaller role to play. The relationship between Cruise and shue seems much more genuine too, and its consumation in marriage seems based more on love than the "White Wedding" promised by contemporary, Billy Idol.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Mocktail.

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