Reel Toronto: Cocktail
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Reel Toronto: Cocktail

We like to imagine they show this scene at Tom’s birthday party every year.

Some movies are good, some movies are bad, and some movies are so bad they are good. There are even movies that are so bad they’re not good but they at least have some sort of kitsch factor. Cocktail falls into none of these categories. It’s just plain bad. So bad that even if one ranks the Great Bar Movies of the 1980s, it takes a distant second place to Road House. So bad that the tagline was “When he pours, he reigns.” We’re not making this stuff up.
But what it does have is a super-hot Tom Cruise making his way around our fair city which surely earned us some points in that “World Class” contest we’re always trying to win.

The story? Um, it’s about a bartender. And not just any bartender but a really, really good bartender who is so good that even in a packed bar people don’t notice that he only serves one drink an hour because that one drink is served with such flair. What he really wants is money. Until he falls in love. Lucky for him, the girl he digs is rich so it’s two birds with one stone except for her dad who doesn’t want his daughter to marry some bartender blah blah blah.
The film takes place in New York and, for the most part, the work there is strong enough to disguise how much was shot here—almost.

Prison rapes, dirty guards, shivvings—none of them is as much of a crime as this monologue.

When he and partner Bryan Brown make it big, they start working in an absurdly over-the-top bar called “Cell Block.” Serendipitously, it was shot at the Old Don Jail, which you can see in this lovely overhead shot. Speaking of absurdly over the top, Tom delivers an ode to bartenders in a monologue that gives Keanu Reeves’ “I Want Room Service” rant in Johnny Mnemonic a run for its money.

A little dancing in the dark at Lee’s.

Another identifiable Toronto watering hole is the Dance Cave, above Lee’s Palace. Amusingly, it plays a reggae bar in Jamaica.
Before realizing that fancy bottle spinning could actually be a career, Tom tries to get an honest education at the University of Toronto. We seem him running past University College…
… to register at Knox College
…though his classes seem to be in the Med-Sci building, given UC’s location out the window. (Also amusingly, his professor is played by Paul Benedict, who also played an eccentric professor in the Toronto-shot The Freshman).

Nothing could be finer than Jerry’s Diner.

Trying to make an honest buck, Elisabeth Shue works at Jerry’s Diner, which we see inside and out. It used to be at 132 Dundas Street West, and now it’s better known as the Lakeview.

You know the weather beacon on top? It was orange, from all the cheese in the air.

Tom gets in a tussle with her daddy’s doorman in the lobby of their building, which bears a resemblance to the Canada Life Building.

The Wedgewood blue really brings out Tommy’s eyes

The lush penthouse in which daddy lives, however, is Lady Pellatt’s suite at Casa Loma. We’re used to seeing Casa Loma’s wood-lined hallways on film, but the blue-tinged room here is recognizable in its own right.
Suicide is a perfectly dignified exit from a floundering Tom Cruise vehicle.

Late in the movie, Bryan Brown realizes that all his acting skills are no match for Tom’s smile, and so he offs himself. He has the good sense to be buried in the St. John’s Cemetery Norway.
One of the dive bars in the movie is played by the ex-Soupy’s Diner on Dundas. Oddly, it also popped up in our last column, for The Ref, and was also used in Al Pacino’s Sea of Love. It’s hard to tell for sure but it’s either Tom’s dad’s li’l bar or the setting for their cheesy wedding scene.
Other locations we know were used include the picturesque Beardmore Building on Front Street and the Westin Harbour Castle.

Okay, it’s possible you can watch Cocktail and have a laugh or two with your pals, but a good cry is more likely. Let’s not forget, this is the movie that took one of the most important rock bands of the 1960s and saw them turn out a horrible pop song and put John Stamos behind the drums. For “Kokomo,” above all else, Cocktail is the devil’s work, make no mistake.