Title – Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Director – Mike Figgis (Timecode)
Cast – Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands
Plot – Alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter Ben Sanderson (Cage) moves to Las Vegas in a quest to drink himself to death but a chance encounter and eventual romantic relationship with the equally troubled call girl Sera (Shue) may be his salvation.
“I am not here to force my twisted soul into your life”
Review by Eddie on 16/12/2020
Long before he became a walking talking meme that is now more known for his willingness to jump on board just about any film that comes his way, Nicolas Cage was at one stage a very serious and well-regarded actor, reaching a pinnacle with his Oscar winning performance as alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter Ben Sanderson in Mike Figgis’s Leaving Las Vegas.
One of the most deeply depressing and bleak movies to come out of the Hollywood system in the time period of its release, Figgis’s raw and confronting adaptation of John O’Brien’s novel allowed Cage to go all in as the death wish seeking Sanderson, who flees the sights and sounds of Los Angeles for the casino laden streets of Las Vegas where he finds potential redemption and meaning in a relationship with Elisabeth Shue’s kinder-hearted prostitute Sera.
An unconventional romance in an untypical narrative, Cage and Shue are both as good as they’ve been in their Oscar winning and nominated roles respectively, even if its hard to know how their performances would be received in today’s climate with some of Figgis’s directional choices ageing poorly and Vegas’s unrefined nature feeling as though its lost some of its lustre in the 25 years on from the films well received initial release that saw it become a surprise box office draw and awards darling.
No doubt the film provides the now mostly irrelevant Shue with her best role before she disappeared into bit parts in mainly direct to video efforts while Cage has rarely found a more suitable character to inhabit than Ben who gives him time as both a wide eyed drunken maniac and a solemnly drawn recluse who longs for nothing more than the sweet peace of death.
The two performers who virtually share most of the films screen-time between themselves are key components of the films success in keeping you engaged as the films incessantly bleak and almost light free affair makes for rough viewing throughout, viewers enjoyment being dependent on how much sorrow and sadness they can take in one sitting.
You get the feeling that had Vegas been made today much would’ve changed about how it handles and films various tough and confronting moments but as it stands its still an important piece of the 90’s cinematic puzzle, even if its awards and plaudits could be called into question as it stands.
Final Say –
Some would argue that Leaving Las Vegas is a career peak moment for its leading man and is undoubtedly the best work of its leading lady and director but this raw and bleak affair hasn’t benefited from the time that’s passed since its initial release even if its still an at times powerful examination of self-destructive souls.
3 bar-tending Danny Huston’s out of 5