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I waited a long time before I saw this award-winning movie. Everything
I had read about it led me to believe it was a depressing film. Most
films about alcoholics aren't pretty and this was about an alcoholic
AND a down-and-out hooker, so how much fun could it be?
Maybe because I expected the worst, I found it a pleasant surprise. Sure, the two people weren't exactly "winners" in life but the movie wasn't that depressing, was it? And the film had style and good acting performances from the two leads Nicholas Cage and Elisabeth Shue, right?
Yes, but "on further review," as they say in the pro football telecasts, my review has changed 180 degrees. I must have had too many drinks like "Ben" to like this movie in first place. Hey, I am far from any prude but this is nothing but slickly-wrapped soft porn. It's Sleaze with, yes, a capital "S." I can't even describe half the stuff Shue described in this movie, casually discussing almost every sexual act you can think of. Maybe that's cool to critics like Ebert, who thought this was the number one movie of the year. it's just another example of the sick state of mind in the film world, from filmmakers to actors to critics, where "pushing the envelope" is the way to go. It started escalating with "Midnight Cowboy" getting the Academy Award and keeps going, through American Beauty and the sleazy films you saw nominated for this year's Best Picture.
Cage won the Academy Award for Best Actor here, and I don't have a problem with that. Shue was equally as good but I found out more than one viewing is like having too many drinks - "not good." It's sad to see soft-porn sordidness because stylish.
I once read a book that started painfully slowly. I was just about to put it down when suddenly, it picked up so much that I wasn't about to put it down. Unfortunately, this one experience has compelled me to read all the way through bad books and sit through many bad movies. After watching all of Leaving Las Vegas, I may finally be cured of this compulsion.
That Nicholas Cage received an academy award for this dreadful film is incredible. Any actor worth his salt (and Cage certainly is) can turn in a performance as an alcoholic without breaking into a sweat. Yet these roles always seems to appeal to academy voters for some strange reason when really difficult and challenging performances get passed up. (Not to mention brilliant comic performances.) The film is a dreary male fantasy: you're suicidal, drinking yourself to death, and a gorgeous (make that, drop-dead, gorgeous) hooker falls hopelessly in love with you despite the self-loathing and the vomit and makes it her goal in life to get you to orgasm. Yeah, right!
I guess this was supposed to be deep and depressing... I found nothing
depressing about it as the characters already have both feet in the
grave from the very beginning. I don't know how they got there or why,
and watching them lay down and die from there is downright boring.
Before you watch, read the taglines and think about what might happen,
and you will probably be about right.
As far as Nick Cage, I know it's a huge matter of opinion with this guy, but I'd say in this movie he stunk. Lots of obvious and crummy improv. If you want good Cage, watch Wild at Heart or Raising Arizona. He's a good actor, but needs good direction, and the director that decided this sappy drama of a screenplay was for him clearly didn't get it.
I think that this is one of those movies that not a awful lot happens
in, and there isn't much of a plot, but there is a lot of meaning
behind everything in it- like a poem.
Its hard to watch, because its so sad to see people destroying their lives for the whole movie. But, I think that this is one of those movies that isn't really a story- its focused more on reality, in this case, the reality of how the lives of alcoholics and prostitutes are very hard to cope with and are extremely draining.
Through out my viewing, all I kept thinking was that this would not be a good movie to watch with friends- its not fun to watch, really (but its still good). Its also not very good to watch with your family, because many parts are disturbing, graphic and dejecting.
Nicolas Cage is hard to read- most of the time you don't know if he's a great actor, or just crazy as hell. He acts mostly the same old crazy guy in this movie as any other, so his performance is very difficult to judge. If I had to choose, I'd say that it was good. He was over the top, but that's what the role required. Also, he acted greatly in some very meaningful parts.
The movie would be so much better, if it weren't for that darn music and soundtrack! None of it fits in well with the scenes/atmosphere, and all in all, even if it did, its still crappy music and songs. Such a pity- a good movie needs good music, and the music really brought the quality of this movie down.
Would I watch it again? Maybe in 2/3 years time- if I'm in a sad mood. Its a strange and unique movie, and... well that's it, I guess.
For an actor to win a Oscar on his first nomination is impressive. But you want to watch impressive, watch Nicolas Cage in this. In my opinion it's the best and realistic performance of an alcoholic I've ever seen, at times, almost unbearably real. His objective here, is to drink himself to death, literally, like the four guys in La Grande Bouffet make a pact to eat themselves to death, and like them, this is something Cage achieves. The reason for his alcoholism, is obviously due, to the loss of his wife and child, which is never explained, which us the audience, is left to fill in the blanks. They might of just left him, cause of his drinking, I don't know, but I'm actually leaning more towards my prior analogy, where may'be too, he never drunk before their passing. Figgis and co have written a great script. The story basically has self destructing Cage, a failed scriptwriter, who gets fired from his job at at publisher script house, who at the start, is seen moseying along the aisles of the liquor story, filling his trolley with a surplus of booze. He travels to Lost, sorry Las Vegas, or I should say Last Vegas, to carry his slow suicide out, where he inadvertently falls in love with a high class call girl (Shue, who really impresses too). She too has been living in a world of pain, dependent on her loser of a brutal pimp, Sands, would you believe, where his fate is cut short. LLV is initially a love story, the story moving at it's own cool and casual, if sleek pace, carried off beautifully by it's two performers. Cage and Shue make a mutual decision, regarding each other vices, where it comes to a point, where Shue can't stay true, to not deterring Cage to give up the bottle. Much like the film Lenny, we have Shue's character talking to a doctor in the after of Cage's death, intermittently throughout the film, where Cage's brilliant rightfully winning performance will linger with you. One scene with Shue getting gang banged by some late teens in a hotel room, which leads to a rape and beating, I must admit was a bit of a hard watch.
Leaving Las Vegas might well be the saddest film that ever was, at
least for me. It is impossible to not identify with Cage's character
and impossible not to love Elisabeth Shue after watching it. And
really, I am not a drunk and my wife is not a hooker, yet my heart
breaks every time I see this film.
I think somehow, perhaps by skill or maybe by accident, the makers of this film managed to capture the very essence of man and woman, their darkest core, and present it to us raw. We have Nicholas Cage, in what I think is by far his best role, playing the man who would rather die than be overcome by desperation. We have Elisabeth Shue, playing the whore, the girl who would do anything to survive, the openly accepting woman, but inwards trying to fix the man she loves. Just send this film with the Voyager probe; aliens would actually get us.
The story is pretty simple, but the intricacies of the relationship between Cage and Shue, the wonderful soundtrack, the flawless direction, they all make this a masterpiece. Cage plays a man who decided to kill himself by drinking himself to death. I found it immensely satisfying that the writer did not need to explain the reason for this. When asked, the lead character just claims he forgot why he is doing it, but he is sure he must. That's what a suicide feels like, when you don't just want death, you want oblivion, you want the negation of your existence.
Shue's character, by the very definition, is an angel. She doesn't come to judge or force change. She is accepting Cage for the simplest reason of all: love. She hates it, but she does it anyway. You might think that there are a lot of love movies around, but they are actually quite a few. People who really love (and I know I sound like a pompous ass, but I actually believe this) accept the others as they are, they don't want to change them. Support them, yes, judge them, no. And that is what this hooker, the lowliest person on earth, without any moral standing at all, does. More than any primadona of romantic films.
Bottom line: this film is a deeply adult movie. Children can't possibly understand it. Teens, maybe, but I don't really believe that. It is a movie about souls, not people, and it touches my soul every time I watch it. Having a strong drink or ten does help get in the mood of it, too.
P.S. Julian Sands plays in this film, in a tiny role. What happened to you, man? I used to love every movie you were in!
Leaving Las Vegas. Lately, Nicolas Cage is known for his whore-like behavior in film industry. He does everything, as long as he gets his six figure salary. Nevertheless, this is one of those movies in which you can see his true acting skills and dedication to perform. In Leaving Las Vegas, Ben Sanderson decides to drink himself to death after his wife left him and he pretty much loses everything else. Which means that most of the time, Nicolas has to play an excessive drinker. The astonishing thing about his performance is that he prepared for the role by filming himself while being heavily intoxicated and standing in front of a mirror. Later on, he would then re-watch the recording (sober) and imitate his own caught-on-tape behavior. So in the movie, he actually plays the drunk version of himself.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Directed by Mike Figgis, "Leaving Las Vegas" stars a scenery chewing
Nicholas Cage as a jobless alcoholic whose wife and family have
abandoned him. Depressed, and looking to commit suicide, Cage pumps his
entire life's savings into one last Las Vegas trip. Here he will
consume copious amounts of alcohol and then die. At least that's the
Much of the film watches as Cage strikes up an impromptu relationship with a local prostitute (Elisabeth Shue). They form a bond of understanding, mutual acceptance and perhaps unconditional love. Figgis then clashes many moments of romanticised self-pity with Las Vegan grime and sleaze. This is Neil Jordan, Abel Ferrara territory, the director trying to paint a darkly glamorous fairy tale against a sordid backdrop.
It works, but this is still an overly sentimental, overly piteous tale, and none of Figgis' characters or relationships are psychological plausible. People don't behave quite this way, Shue plays the hooker-with-the-heart-of-gold cliché, and Cage paradoxically plays a suicidal depressive who's charming and in love with life. It's all a giant writer's fantasy.
Bizarrely, what Shue's character sees in Cage is never brought up. And the way Figgis mirrors Shue's life to Cage's sets up weird implications. If Cage's alcoholism defines his self-destruction, then so too Shue's prostitution, including a last act sequence in which she is sexual assaulted, implying that she too is self-destructive and so was "asking for" rape.
Nicholas Cage would win an Oscar, Golden Globe and several best actor accolades for his role. Like most best actor winners, it's a showy role, all noise and outer surfaces, though he does convince in some scenes, with his sad, hollow eyes and agitated tics. Shue is given a number of good lines she speaks of her loneliness, recalls coming home from work to nothing but a bottle of mouthwash and the taste of semen on her lips but they're all relayed to a psychologist during several flashback sequences; a lazy, implausible device used to get characters to confess their souls.
The film seems to use "Lara's Theme" from "Doctor Zhivago". Elsewhere Figgis composes his own bluesy score, which perfectly compliments his moody visuals. He turns Las Vegas into a world of permanent after-hours. A morass of bulbs and billboards, in which skid rowers and barflies suckle booze and dice-roll their way to slow oblivion. The film was shot in Super-16.
7.9/10 Worth one viewing. See "The Cooler" and "In a Lonely Place".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Leaving Las Vegas is a romantic drama film based on a semi-
autobiographical novel of the same name by John O'Brien. Nicolas Cage
stars as a suicidal alcoholic who has ended his personal and
professional life to drink himself to death in Las Vegas. While there,
he forms a relationship with a hardened prostitute, played by Elisabeth
Shue, which forms the center of the film.It is written and directed by
The film tells a story of a a romantic triangle of sorts involving prostitute Sera, failed Hollywood screenwriter Ben and the constant flow of booze which he loves more dearly than life itself. Arriving in Las Vegas with the intention of drinking himself to death, Ben meets Sera, and they gradually begin falling for one another. From the outset, however, Ben warns Sera that no matter what, she can never ask him to quit drinking, a condition to which she grudgingly agrees.This charts the brief romantic convergence of two desperately needy people who together find a brief flicker of happiness.
Grim yet compelling, downbeat but not really depressing, this multi- nuanced portrait of an alcoholic is easily is most accomplished and haunting picture.As far as the acting is concerned, this uniquely hypnotic and haunting love story is sparked by Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue at their career best.And most of all,it pulls no punches, takes no prisoners and flies in the face of feel-good pictures.
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