Cocktail was a classic movie that came out of the 1980s. It was a film that featured two very popular stars at the peak of their power: Tom Cruise and Elizabeth Shue. It also had a fading star in the film too: Bryan Brown. With the three of them in this film, it became something that people from the 1980s always remembered because of what it represented for so many who became lost in that era: the search for meaning in one’s life. If you think about the film on the top, there’s lots of glitz and glamor to the film in everything it does from portraying the nightlife of New York City to the beauty of Jamaica. Should you dig a tad bit deeper into the movie, you will find that there is a deeper meaning to the movie and the struggles of the lead character.
Cruise’s Brian Flanagan comes back from the military ready to take the world by storm. He starts looking at every potential opportunity out there through looking for jobs and going to school. Eventually, Flanagan lands the perfect job: working as a part-time bartender under the mentorship of Brown’s Doug Coughlin. The initial search for a job and seeking a business degree represent the first time that Flanagan is really trying to search for the meaning in his life. He becomes angry and saddened when he is turned down for other jobs outside of his bartending role. He cannot stand his professors in college, who have never worked a non-academic job.
For Flanagan, his search can be especially demeaning since he is a veteran coming back from war. He was used to a certain life for a while taking orders and executing them in the military. Now, the whole world is open to him and it begins to beat down on him. He, especially, probably needed a shake alarm clock just to wake up for everything he had going during both parts of his life. Time continues on for a time with Flanagan and Coughlin working together and finding success. There’s even talk the two may go into business together.
However, when Coughlin goes after Flanagan’s girlfriend at the time, it’s when the latter decides to call it quits in New York City. While Coughlin thought he was saving Flanagan from making a mistake, the anger causes Flanagan to depart the Big Apple and to head to somewhere off the beaten path: Jamaica. To Flanagan, this is the chance to “get away from it all,” as the song, “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys goes. What Flanagan is really seeking is to escape his life. He wants to start over somewhere else and thinks nobody from his old life will ever follow him here.
Flanagan’s life takes yet another turn here. He meets Shue’s Jordan Mooney, a waitress in New York City and an aspiring artist who is on vacation. Flanagan comes to the rescue of one of her friends who is not in great shape. What is a chance meeting turns into a difficult path that causes Flanagan to question everything he believed in life. At once, he was seeking to start a new life, and the next second, he meets a girl from the city he sought to leave behind. Just as complicating for Flanagan is the return of Coughlin. The latter is on vacation with his new love interest, Kerry.
For Coughlin, he takes great joy in pointing out the flaws in Flanagan. It enrages Flanagan to an extent with how rude Coughlin is. At this point, Flanagan doesn’t realize just how important Mooney is to him until he makes a fatal mistake—— having an affair with another woman. What causes Flanagan to stray away from the path of righteousness was that of Coughlin bullying of Flanagan. Flanagan is not a weak man and does not want Coughlin to think he is. It shows that, despite Flanagan’s wishes to escape his past, the pieces of it come back to hit him. What is revealed is that Flanagan still cares about what Coughlin thinks of him because of the past mentor-mentee relationship.
Flanagan does not realize how special Mooney is to him. He throws a chance away with her to get even with Coughlin. Here is where Flanagan begins to have two paths in life: he can either go after Mooney and find success with her or he can live the life Coughlin has, which is one of sadness. Coughlin is not a happy man by any means. Eventually, Flanagan returns to New York City to go after Mooney when he encounters Coughlin at a party. What is revealed is that Coughlin has become a shadow of his former self. He does not need a shake alarm clock to awake him out of his misery. Not only is his marriage to Kerry a mess, but he has turned to alcohol to deal with his troubles. He is also broke and spends his time on his boat alone. Flanagan brings something for them to drink and has one last night with his old mentor before the latter commits suicide. Additionally, Kerry makes a move on Flanagan. He sees what Coughlin’s life has become.
It’s then that Flanagan realizes he does not want to end up like Coughlin. He doesn’t want to follow Coughlin’s Law. He wants to marry Mooney. As if Flanagan’s life was not turned upside down enough, he finds out Mooney is pregnant. This is where he really has to fight for her. Eventually, in a dramatic scene, Mooney decides not to stay with her parents and goes off with Flanagan. This reveals that she still has feelings for Flanagan and cares deeply for him despite having been hurt by his actions. Flanagan has made some good decisions and poor ones too.
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Throughout the film, the audience gets a look at the difficulties of making decisions in life. It shows us that we can neither travel somewhere else to escape our problems or succumb to the tempting dares of an adversary. It tells us that we need to recognize and cherish the things that we have in life right now before we lose them. Life is short and it’s something that drives Flanagan to open up “Flanagan’s Cocktails & Dreams,” which is a neighborhood bar. At that point, Flanagan says he cannot be spooked ever again by Mooney except she then reveals she is pregnant with twins. While Flanagan was not prepared for that, he does not turn away from the responsibility and love he has toward her and his future children. He accepts the life he worked hard to create for himself and moves forward in an affirmative fashion.
© 2019, Tommy Zimmer. All rights reserved.