American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Cocktail" tells the story of two bartenders and their adventures in six bars and several bedrooms. What is remarkable, given the subject, is how little the movie knows about bars or drinking.
Early in the film, there's a scene where the two bartenders stage an elaborately choreographed act behind the bar. They juggle bottles in unison, one spins ice cubes into the air and the other one catches them, and then they flip bottles at each other like a couple of circus jugglers. All of this is done to rock 'n' roll music, and it takes them about four minutes to make two drinks. They get a roaring ovation from the customers in their crowded bar, which is a tip-off to the movie's glossy phoniness. This isn't bartending, it's a music video, and real drinkers wouldn't applaud, they'd shout: "Shut up and pour!" The bartenders in the film are played by Tom Cruise, as a young ex-serviceman who dreams of becoming a millionaire, and Bryan Brown, as a hard-bitten veteran who has lots of cynical advice. Brown advises Cruise to keep his eyes open for a "rich chick," because that's his ticket to someday opening his own bar. Cruise is ready for this advice.
He studies self-help books and believes that he'll be rich someday, if only he gets that big break. The movie is supposed to be about how he outgrows his materialism, although the closing scenes leave room for enormous doubts about his redemption.
The first part of the movie works the best. That's when Cruise drops out of school, becomes a full-time bartender, makes Brown his best friend and learns to juggle those bottles. In the real world, Cruise and Brown would be fired for their time-wasting grandstanding behind the bar, but in this movie they get hired to work in a fancy disco where they have a fight over a girl and Cruise heads for Jamaica.