Movie Review: Cocktail (2012)

3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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An attractive cast and raucous party scenes are the lure Cocktail uses to draw the audience into an exploration of modern romance and female friendship. It’s a frothy concoction that packs a punch.

Country girl Meera (Diana Penty) arrives in London to reunite with her husband Kunal (Randeep Hooda), only to learn that the marriage was a scam to cheat her out of her dowry money. Alone in an unfamiliar city, Meera meets Veronica (Deepika Padukone), a party girl. Veronica’s decadent lifestyle is financed by her wealthy absentee father, and she offers Meera a place to stay without a second thought. Though opposites in temperament, the women become best friends.

During a night on the town, Veronica plays a prank on Gautam (Saif Ali Khan), a serial flirt who hit on Meera when she first arrived in London. Veronica and Gautam become romantically involved, and he moves into Veronica’s house as well, forming a truce with Meera.

In order to get his mother (Dimple Kapadia) to stop pressuring him about marriage, Gautam admits that he’s in a relationship. When Mom arrives unexpectedly from India, Gautam says that prim, proper Meera is his girlfriend, not drunk, half-naked Veronica. The charade continues on a South African vacation where things get predictably complicated.

The story is organized as a classic Bollywood tale-of-two-halves. The first half of the film is lighthearted as the friends get to know each other. Some of the best laughs come courtesy of Gautam’s uncle, played by Boman Irani.

The second half of the film becomes an interesting character study with meaningful dialog. Writers Imtiaz Ali and Sajid Ali offer insightful commentary on modern, hook-up culture through the characters of Gautam and Veronica.

As soon as Gautam starts his sham relationship with Meera, everyone in the audience knows that things will end badly, but Gautam honestly doesn’t. He thinks he can say sweet things to Meera and that she won’t fall for him, and that he can do this in front of Veronica without making her jealous. He treats his “no strings attached” status with Veronica as a contract, a shield from future emotional attachment. Khan is very good in the scenes when Gautam finally realizes that this is not the case.

Padukone is likewise captivating when Veronica finally appreciates the hollowness of her party lifestyle. “I know what everyone thinks of me,” she says, heartbreakingly. Veronica fights dirty for the life she thinks she wants, a life that seems destined for Meera but not her. As misguided as she is, Veronica is very relatable.

Debutant actor Penty jumps into the deep end with Cocktail. Khan and Padukone are talented and sexy and have an established rapport, having worked together as romantic leads in Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal. Even Hooda, Irani, and Kapadia are superb in their supporting roles. Penty’s performance isn’t quite as nuanced as those of her fellow cast members — she needs to learn to emote with her eyes and work on her dance moves — but she’s not a distraction. Meera isn’t as flashy as Veronica or Gautam, and Penty’s restrained performance suits her character.

The few complaints I have about the movie have to do with the sound design. There’s a paucity of background music in the first half, making it feel as though the scenes lack a connective thread. Also, the music that is there gets mixed very loud relative to the dialog, like when television commercials are significantly louder than the shows they interrupt.

If you watch enough movies, it becomes easy to predict how a plot will progress. With about thirty minutes remaining in Cocktail, I wrote the note: “How will this end?” It’s a lot of fun to be taken along for the ride for a change.

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27 thoughts on “Movie Review: Cocktail (2012)

  1. Keyur

    So far I have only heard bad things about this movie from my friends. Your review is an interesting read.
    I am waiting for Jism 2. Looks an interesting crime thriller.

    Cheers ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      The characters really hit home for me, Keyur. That’s what I liked about “Cocktail.” The dialog translates really, really well into English. The way that Saif’s and Deepika’s characters respond brought me back to conversations I witnessed (possibly participated in) back in my early twenties. They’re not the kinds of characters everyone is meant to relate to, so I can see why the movie wouldn’t work for some people. Do check it out at some point, even if not in the theater.

      Reply
      1. Keyur

        Oh I see. Yes, it’s good to get back memories from the past while watching a movie ๐Ÿ™‚

        Well, I won’t lie to you, Kathy. Actually, it’s not possible for me to watch such movies (Although I wouldn’t have had a choice if I was sent for reviewing it). I mean, the type of characters like Saif and Deepika in the movie. Couldn’t even bear the promos. Hope you understand. Won’t promise but will try if it comes on TV ever.

        Cheers ๐Ÿ™‚

        Reply
        1. Kathy Post author

          I understand, Keyur. ๐Ÿ™‚ Though I won’t say Cocktail necessarily evokes happy memories, I think it is true to a lot of people’s experiences of coming to terms with adulthood and understanding romantic relationships. The characters make a lot of relatable mistakes. Plus, Deepika and Saif are really good actors.

          Reply
          1. Keyur

            Thanks for understanding Kathy ๐Ÿ™‚ Yeah, that’s true.

            By the way, I hope you got to know that Rajesh Khanna is no more. It was a sad day for Bollywood yesterday!

            Reply
            1. Kathy Post author

              I saw the sad news, Keyur. I’ve never seen any of Rajesh Khanna’s films. Besides “Anand,” what are his greatest hits?

              Reply
              1. Keyur

                Besides Anand, his memorable films include Bawarchi, Kati Patang, Aradhana, Amar Prem, Andaz, Do Raaste, Namak Haraam and Bandhan. From these Anand and Bawarchi are my favorites. You should surely watch his films.
                Right now, me and my family are watching Anand. Have seen it quite a few times before but it’s a very different feeling while watching it right now. This one is unforgettable!
                It is believed that Kal Ho Na Ho was loosely based on Anand.

                Reply
  2. TS

    Kathy even u said its a predictable movie. Still u liked it. 1st half is full of fun and comedy. Only thing i liked was boman irani. His scenes with deepika were funny. And ya the songs are great. Oh ya I wanted to ask u how many americans were there in the theatre or just Indians??

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      I agree that Boman’s scene with Deepika is really funny, but you misread my review, TS. I said that everyone but Gautam knows that his plan will end badly. I didn’t say in what way. In my final paragraph I write that, with thirty minutes left, I didn’t know how the film was going to end.

      No other non-Indians were at my showing, but I saw it on a Monday morning. “Cocktail” is very American-friendly.

      Reply
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  8. Shah Shahid

    Hmm, I believe our different reactions might have been based on the nature and tone of the film. You’re right. COCKTAIL IS very American-friendly, but in that, they portray some amazing stereotypes which irk me.

    And this movie further perpetuates the notion that South Asians born and raised outside of the ‘Motherland’, end up being promiscuous and irresponsible adults, who are apparently, clueless to the nature of emotions and relationships in general.

    This has motivated me to post up my Review of COCKTAIL. See the link below. I apologize in advance for the profanity, this was written immediately after viewing… so emotions were high.
    http://blankpagebeatdown.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/babblin-bollywood-review-cocktail-2012/

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Thanks for the link to your review, Shahid. I’m in the minority for liking Cocktail, but it really resonated with me. I’d be curious to know if the movie would evoke the same negative responses if the characters were Anglo-Brits instead of NRIs, and therefore weren’t perpetuating the stereotypes you mention. My hunch is probably not.

      Reply
      1. Shah Shahid

        No worries. There are some questionable movies (or so I’m told) that speak to me personally. Such is the case with subjective art.

        I’ve actually thought about the ethnicity of the actors playing a part in my reaction, but it would’ve actually drastically changed the story some. The arranged marriage thing wouldn’t have worked, nor the Conservative mother, causing Deepika to get all pure Desi woman. Although it might’ve work if the setting was LA and the mom became an opinionated and shrill Jewish woman?

        We’ll never know.

        Reply
    2. Keyur Seta

      I won’t comment on Cocktail as I haven’t seen the movie (was horrified by whatever I saw in the promos). But I truly applaud this sentence of yours – “This movie further perpetuates the notion that South Asians born and raised outside of the โ€˜Motherlandโ€™, end up being promiscuous and irresponsible adults, who are apparently, clueless to the nature of emotions and relationships in general.” ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Hi, apex! Thanks for linking to your commentary (and thanks to Amy for introducing you to my site!). In your post, you made what I think is the most important point in Cocktail’s favor: Adajania presents the characters as real people, not representatives of some kind of moral code. They’re all flawed and in need of growth, which they do over the course of the film. This is a really well-made movie.

      Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      I am embarrassingly behind on 2013 Hollywood movies, apex. I haven’t seen either The Great Gatsby or Mud (though my brother liked it, and he has good taste). However, I can recommend Oblivion and Star Trek Into Darkness. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Reply
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