FILMS… Cocktail (1988) vs Notting Hill (1999)

#1980s #1990s


A matter of love and hate…


About my fair and foul thoughts on two movies, one much-loved that I hate, one much hated that I love.



OK, which movies do you love but Rotten Tomatoes hate with a tomato meter score of 35% or less and which you hate but the folks using this site love with a tomato meter score of 75% upwards? So here in relation to the odd equation, I present to you the delights of Cocktail and the awfulness of Notting Hill.  And yes, I did explain that in the right order. To support my preferences, here’s a wee guide as to why…


Cocktail (1988)

Tomatometer Ratings for Cocktail

Cocktail – Trailer, CineDeLos80

This admittedly was the hardest to select.. well, if you’ve read my A – Z pages you’ll discover I do review quite a lot of what most of you would call in a few words, guilty pleasures or so bad they’re good. But despite this film winning two Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay, it’s one of my favourite Tom Cruise movies.

Cocktail tells of a young late 1980s Tom Cruise character, Brian Flannagan who while studying for business school becomes a bartender. He learns the ins and outs of the business from the always amiable Aussie, Doug Coughlin, his colleague. After a time, these barmen become a kind of double act with their entertainment act behind the bar including juggling bottles, throwing and catching bottles with each other and the like. The pair fall out over a girl (surprise, surprise). This takes Brian to Jamaica and love…

Admittedly it may sound incredibly dull but do read on… This is one of the few films that I don’t remember Cruise on a motorcycle or running (but could be wrong here). Here just enjoying himself in a mindless romantic movie – that doesn’t stretch his acting ability – in a good, harmless way.  Although it’s not one of those action roles he’s more synonymous with, he kind of breezes through this wee romantic 1980s leading role.

It’s one that some of us romantics had been waiting for since we loved him as Maverick in Top Gun (1986). But it’s a shame that after this it was more testosterone-fueled films he was cast in as he was kinda likeable here (even when his character wasn’t).

I loved him paired up with the always fantastic Elisabeth Shue. As the on-screen love interests, Brian and Jordan, definitely had more chemistry than she had with the wee waifish looking Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid (1986). But there she looked like she’d easily push Macchio over with one finger. A bit like the Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio pairing in Titanic (1997). Particularly in that car scene.

However, I loved Cocktail primarily for the always enigmatic, charismatic Bryan Brown as Doug Coughlin. Always remembered him as that Aussie actor from The Thorn Birds  (1983). In that mini-series, he sheared sheep (and sadly the sheep shearers I’ve encountered were never this hot) and put up with his wife Meggie (Rachel Ward)’s longings for the local priest, Ralph (Richard Chamberlain). And in Cocktail, Brown totally steals the show as Cruise’s mentor and buddy.

Also, it was a lovely exotic setting for part of the story and the film had a nice wee 1980s happy ending. And a catchy, upbeat soundtrack song from the Beach Boys too, in the form of Kokomo. However, the film has been widely criticised, with Wikipedia even quoting Cruise saying that this film “was not a crowning jewel” in his career.

Darlin Husband – who was bored by the film –  claims that the more running Cruise does in a film equates with his film’s success. And that Cruise only ran a wee bit in Cocktail, which explains the low score on Rotten Tomatoes. Anyway watch the trailer and see Tom Cruise at his more romantic leading man’s finest.. unless you are like the 5% tomato meter score that made this a rotten tomato.


Notting Hill (1999)

Tomatometer Ratings for Notting Hill

Notting Hill – Trailer, YouTube Movies

I’ll admit that when I first saw this film, I liked it. I wallowed in the romance and cried by the end of the credits. Now as a bit more cynical of this and other romantic comedies (especially those with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway or both), I tried to watch it again and couldn’t do it despite being the most favourite film of Brits in its release year. As it got an 83% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film tells of a bumbling terribly English bookseller (cue Hugh Grant) who meets and falls for a Hollywood actress (Julia Roberts) in a boy meets girl (yawn) story – read contrived romance – leading to a predictable happy ending. With much alleged “hilarity”.

It started off OK, I do love the opening song She – from the wonderfully talented Elvis Costello (why Elvis??) – and the montage bit with Julia Roberts in the opening credits. I liked that other montage. when the on-screen pair inevitably break up in this rom-com is quite unique. And not just because adding these bits in real-film-time would have added to the film’s duration. But it does help.  Now the title now feels a bit dull and unimaginative, and it sounds like part of a documentary series of places to see in London.

I also get irritated with British terribly English bumbling leading character Will – he really is a highly stereotyped Hugh Grant character – and his annoying, sorry very annoying British way of being. Things got even more annoyingly British English when he poses as a Horse & Hound (in an in-film shameless plug) reporter to gain the actress’s time and attention. As you do. Oh, how I laughed (not) at the accompanying montage.

Julia Roberts who is normally ok in most films – apart from what I’ve seen of Mothers Day (2016) – became super irritating as the Richard Curtis token romantic American role as Anna. But not in the same league as the incomparable actress, Andie McDonnell. Ironically,, she played another most annoying love interest in a previous Hugh Grant movie also by Curtis. See rants in Love & Mercy (2016) here and on Curtis here for another of his films, About Time (2013). Like this film, it was good the first time round but possibly probably due to Bill Nighy and Rachel McAdams.

Even the underdog in the movie, Rhys Ifans playing Spike (Will’s Welsh flatmate) didn’t endear me as much as the time before. This is because I think he was more than fantastic in Mr Nice (2010). And don’t get me started on Will’s motley crew of family and acquaintances… starring British lovies Emma Chambers, Tim McInnerny, Gina McKee, and Hugh Bonneville. Their characters are so forgettable that I can’t even remember most of their names.

I’d even blanked out the great Alec Baldwin making an appearance –  as Anna’s boyfriend – in this movie. Why Alec??? But… I’d blanked him out (and will again). Presumably, so I could enjoy watching him steal the show in Rock of Ages (2012). Again. In one of his best roles ever, where he had obviously much more chemistry with Russell Brand.

As for the Notting Hill soundtrack, it includes one by the man from Boyzone, Ronan Keating. Which admittedly, was a song I loved the first time I heard it. But now it also now irks me after he ruined a favourite song If Tomorrow Never Comes. This was ruined with a rather tasteless accompanying video of the singer being run over. With CGI no blood, but more stupid looking. He gets run over a lot, especially in the chorus. As an individual or in whatever the collective noun is for a multitude of Ronan Keatings…

Notting Hill also boasts the now twee setting of the now richest parts of London (not pronounced Laandan) where this bookseller lives and works. Despite not selling many books, his shop was usually devoid of customers. So on the rewatch, I switched off as things took an incredibly unbearable turn with the token American actress and the bumbling one at a birthday party for his eccentric sister.

She is called Honey (of course), as a bid to explain why she’s a bit kooky as opposed to a more “normal” name. There his contrived yuppie friends act in a typecast way with him on a date with the actress. Who predictably blends in and is a hit with said cronies. And with at least two of the friends reminding you of the previously mentioned, Four Weddings and A Funeral (1994).

By the end of the film, it really felt like that infamous quote from the movie. Where now paraphrased, it feels like Julia Roberts was really saying “I’m just a girl standing in front of a screen asking you to love my film”‘.

So to end this wee post, after remembering and reviewing the highs and lows of both these films, I’ve noted that both films end practically on the same premise. And therefore, after a pregnant pause…  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter.


Against the Crowd Blogathon 2018, No 46 and  Always a Bridesmaid Blogathon 2019, No 40

This post was added to Dell on Movies’ Against the Crowd Blogathon and Hollywood Genes’ Always A Bridesmaid Film Blogathon. Other posts with these casts include Tom Cruise also stars in posts on Rock of Ages, Spectacular Singing Stars and Edge of Tomorrow. Elisabeth Shue stars in Soapdish and Adventures in Babysitting / A Night on the Town. Hugh Grant also appears in Music and Lyrics and Notting Hill montage here. Julia Roberts stars in Sleeping With the Enemy, Mothers Day, Pretty Woman, Closer and Runaway Bride.




23 thoughts on “FILMS… Cocktail (1988) vs Notting Hill (1999)

  1. Thanks so much for participating. This is exactly what I was looking for. Sadly, I’ve actually avoided both films. I skipped Cocktail because I’d heard it was terrible (in the days before Rotten Tomatoes). I didn’t bother with Notting Hill because there was a time I avoided rom-coms like the plague. I have a suspicion that my feelings would echo yours on that one which were…strong, to say the least. Loved it. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fun post! It’s been so long since I’ve seen Cocktail I have only vague memories of it other than thinking it wasn’t much. I do love Elisabeth Shue and never quite understood why her leading lady period was so brief. Not sure if it was personal preference or poor choices. I like Bryan Brown, I’ve seen him in many things but must admit The Thornbirds is still the first thing that comes to mind when I see his name in the credits, but I don’t have a strong memory of him in the film. I’d be tempted to revisit the movie if it wasn’t for my near allergy to all things Cruise. It’s not just the fact that he seems like a loon but his insufferable smugness in most roles is a major turnoff. I did enjoy A Few Good Men but that was more being involved in the film’s story than him.

    I’m with you on Notting Hill. I’m a Hugh Grant fan and generally like Roberts in rom-coms, her strong suit by a country mile, but this one was unctuous to little purpose or pay off. That damn speech about her being a girl standing in front of a guy was beyond puerile and the “quirky” supporting cast was just a bunch of tics and stereotypes masquerading as people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cocktail is such a guilty pleasure of mine! I totally agree with everything you said about it; it’s classic cheesy 80s at it’s best!

    I think I’ve seen bits of Notting Hill, and I was bored AF. No desire to revisit it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I quite like Tom Cruise’s work, but haven’t ever watched Cocktail. I’ll have to watch it the next time I have the chance. On the other hand, I could never understand the popularity of Notting HIll. The story drags on forever, and there’s not a whole lot of chemistry between Hugh and Julia to make it as charming or sweet as other rom-coms. Nice picks!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When I think of fashionable Notting Hill, I’m reminded that 10 Rillington Place (a tremendously good movie if you haven’t seen it) was there before the area gentrified. I’m not that into the recent incarnation of the romantic comedy either.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have yet To see Cocktail because of Tom Cruise whom I like a bit better now than I didn’t back then which is strange to write since I think he is a bit fruit loops. I am glad you gave a shout out The The Thorn Birds which I loved when it came out and c4eated such a stir with the Catholic Church (who were hiding horrible facts about their clergymen). I like Bryan Brown and wonder what has happened to him. Now..Nodding Off…this film I have actually seen more than once and it’s ok I never a dreary, boring sort of way. Robert’s character is in need of therapy and Grant was on sleep mode throughout this flick. I liked his roommate and wished he had more screen time but the other friends were the same from 4 Weddings. I just don’t get why it became such a big movie and I hate…HATE that plea from Julia Roberts..”I’m just a girl…”. Blecchhhhh. What a stupid, stupid sentence, plea whatever. I felt it set back women 50 yrs.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never heard of Cocktail but I guess it’s worth watching to see a Tom Cruise I’m not used to. I saw Notting Hill once, many years ago, and I liked it. I’m not sure how I’d feel about it today though.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. OMG, Gill!!!
    I love it when you dislike a movie!
    now I will have to keep an eye out for both of these films because I have never experienced them.

    Liked by 1 person

Love your thoughts... but only if they are spoiler free!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.