• U.S.

Cinema: Cruise + Booze = Big Snooze COCKTAIL

3 minute read
Richard Corliss

We live in an age of star quantity, when actors bulk up and become icons. Watching Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger from film to film, moviegoers follow their new, improved musculature like twists in a plot of enlightened egotism. They are comic-book heroes — impossibly perfect, way too perfect — in 3-D. They are their own apotheoses, their own parodies.

So it’s a pleasure to find a movie star, like Tom Cruise, who radiates old- fashioned star quality. Onscreen Cruise looks life-size or a little less; his body is not so much beefy as blocky; when he laughs, his prominent nose turns into a knuckle. Yet if Cruise disdains perfection for a roguish humanity, his million-watt smile makes him immediately likable, even swoonworthy. In Risky Business, Top Gun and The Color of Money, he effused an unselfconscious self- confidence, an anachronistic but winning spirit of American go-get. In an ideal suburbia, Cruise is the boy next door, most likely to succeed.

Trouble is, he knows this, and so do the people who help him make movies. His new one, Cocktail, has no reason for being other than to market the Cruise charm like a cheap celebrity perfume. Act I: See Tom strut as a Manhattan bartender for whom mixing drinks becomes a form of performance art, a quick route to saloon celebrity. Act II: See Tom slink, as he dumps a young woman of sweet substance (Elisabeth Shue) for life on a leash held by a rich bitch (Lisa Banes). Act III: See Tom furrow his boyish brow in a moment of reflection and win the girl of his revised dreams. Sure, fine, why not? Love with the proper heiress propelled many an affable screwball plot in the ’30s, when stars made a new movie every few months and one more airy, romantic comedy was no big deal.

Even back then, Clark Gable wouldn’t have touched this script with a ten- foot swizzle stick. Nor can Cruise find much to dine on here; the film is a 100-minute canape. Maybe it was meant to be a Bright Lights, Big City with a happy ending, and with booze instead of dope as the recreational drug of choice. Bryan Brown, who plays Cruise’s misanthropic mentor, does eventually go the way of all flash: he can cope with everything but success. But if there is a moral here, it is lost in the film’s desperate dash to ingratiate. As Cruise says at Cocktail’s climax, “I tried to sell out to you, but I couldn’t close the deal.” He should know you can’t sell star quality, but you can sell it out. Charm is the wrapper, not the package. And Cocktail is a bottle of rotgut in a Dom Perignon box.

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