Ben Sanderson, a Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his alcoholism, arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute Sera.
In order to foil an extortion plot, an FBI agent undergoes a face-transplant surgery and assumes the identity and physical appearance of a ruthless terrorist, but the plan turns from bad to worse when the same criminal impersonates the cop.
Because his wife left him and took his son with her, screenwriter Ben Sanderson has started drinking, a lot. He's getting more and more isolated and he troubles women in bars because he wants to have sex with them. When he gets fired, he decides to leave everything behind and move to Las Vegas and drink himself to death. In Las Vegas he meets Sera, a prostitute with some problems as well who he moves in with. Written by
Marco van Hoof <email@example.com>
In at least two scenes taxis are shown with an advertisement on the roof hoarding depicting a brand called "Red Mullet" - the name of director Mike Figgis's production company and it's his face in the ad. See more »
When supposed to be playing blackjack, Ben and Sera are sitting at a Caribbean Stud Poker table. See more »
To me, this is one of the best romantic films that you can get your hands on. If you are interested in seeing a pure love, one that is not focused purely on sex, but instead emotional and mental connectiveness, then this is the film for you. While others will argue that this is not the best date film, I would beg to differ. Leaving Las Vegas would be a perfect choice for a first date film over anything that Meg Ryan or the recycle bin of Hollywood has to offer. It is a gripping story of realistic love, and the dramatic consequences of giving your heart to someone. It is about dreams, companionship, and the hurdles of everyday romance. This is a film that proves that the darker underbelly of our society still has a shimmering light of hope and love. Director Mike Figgis has done an outstanding job of giving these two rich characters the right elements to build upon the "classic" love-story moments, while giving it a flavor uniquely his own. Figgis' mixture of gritty Vegas with the beautiful jazz sounds really created the ambiance of love and pushed these two ugly ducklings closer towards their transformation into love. I think that is what really captured me on this film, was that it was similar to the love stories that Hollywood continually releases, except it gave us two tragic characters instead of these bubbly, money isn't everything, characters that seem to be repetitive cogs in the Hollywood machine.
Let me explain this further. When you think of a love story, what are the elements that you consider? You have a guy and a girl (normally), they have this coincidental moment where they find their common bond, they are held back by either an internal or external dilemma, there is a factor of insecurity, and finally the dramatic ending where the two rush together at a predisclosed location (normally an airport). Does that sound familiar in any way? These are all elements that you can find in LLV. I have seen this film at least a dozen times, and for some odd reason it was this viewing that it just seemed to click for me. This is the perfect American love story told with a darker tone. While most will see this as nothing more than the story of a drunk trying to kill himself and a graphic scenes with a prostitute, I saw it as the classic story of love. All the elements are present. Ben and Sera coincidentally meet one night, both seeking companionship and without the pressures of sex, they immediately form this bond that will never be broken. Through Ben's drunkenness, he remembers her and continually wants to see her. They both have internal factors that hold them back, Sera's is prostitution while Ben's is his drinking. Even through there are these factors, they still find themselves together. That feeling of insecurity is even there when Sera arrives home one night to find Ben with someone else. It all seems to fit. Then there is the amazing ending that will either have you in rapture or in awe. These two are in love, and it isn't this bubbly love between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, it is truths of America finding the dream of compassion.
The only unnecessary moments that I felt could have been fine-tuned were those involving Julian Sans. I just couldn't capture his character. I needed a bit more back-story or perhaps more interactions between him and Sera. Something was missing that distracted from the scenes that they shared. Outside of this one element, the rest of the film was purely flawless and even at times carnal. For example, when Sera has the opportunity to be on her own, she chooses to forgo her independence and be with Ben. Shue and Figgis both demonstrate that perhaps Sera is not in love with Ben, but instead the concept of a man wanting to be with her because of who she is. It is obvious that Sera seeks companionship, and probably has never had it all her life, when suddenly Ben struts into the picture. This may explain why she continues to work when she doesn't have to. She is used to the job, she thrives for the intensity, and perhaps uses it to fall deeper in love with Ben. Figgis doesn't come out and give you a reason why Sera continues along her path, but instead leaves it up to your imagination and enjoyment. Leaving Las Vegas felt like a combination Breaking the Waves, Love Liza, and All the Real Girls. This is a love story with so many different human elements coming to you at once that the average viewer would probably ignore the signs and see this as a depressing film. While it isn't the lightest film of the ages, it does prove that "Love is a very splendid thing".
I cannot end this review without at least mentioning the amazing acting done by both Nicolas Cage and Elizabeth Shue. The chemistry between them is rare in Hollywood. I felt that these two really made this film and were just not placed in their roles to sell tickets. Cage really felt comfortable and understood his character while Shue fit perfectly with her secrets and heart. It is obvious why Cage won the Oscar for his role in this film, and while I am sure we will never see him take a role like this again (thanks to summer blockbusters), it was good to see him take a role that really redefined the romance genre. The same goes for Shue. While she hasn't really made another film like this one in a very long time (outside of Adventures in Babysitting), it is good to know that she can take on roles like this and have the guts to follow through.
Overall, this was a very powerful and emotional film for me.
Grade: ***** out of *****
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