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.
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>
The opening scene, which features Ben dancing through the liquor aisle of supermarket, was originally meant to be much later in the film, but was moved because director Mike Figgis felt that it underpinned the character perfectly See more »
Ben flips out and overturns a blackjack table in a casino. The tables in casinos are fixed to the floor to minimize the risk of someone stealing chips by "accidentally" overturning the table and scattering them on the floor. See more »
The opening credits do not appear until fifteen minutes into the film. See more »
LaserDisc version is unrated and contains more sexually explicit footage. First pressings of the VHS versions also contained this footage but later pressings did not. The Unrated Edition has also been released on DVD and runs 112 min. See more »
An unrelenting tragedy, with raw and passionate performances
Having recovered from the mind-numbing Heat, a supposed character study, I was eager to sink my teeth into a different 1995 gem and I found it here with Leaving Las Vegas. With only two important characters, the entire film rests heavily on the shoulders of Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue, and neither of them disappoint.
Of the two, Nicolas Cage is the Oscar winner and the truly deserving one at that. He is simply hypnotic as Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic so far gone he doesn't even remember why he wants to die. His withdrawal scenes are so real they are upsetting, whereas his drunken charisma is so real its almost funny. The balance that Cage strikes really highlights how tragic his character really is. He conveys hatred and rage and loneliness and despair, and you will be so sad yet so hooked that its impossible to look away. Elisabeth Shue gets off to a slower start than Cage, but she is still an endearing, emotional character, capable of great things.
The writing is very good, giving Cage the perfect, pitiful dialogue in order to serve his woeful character, and even throws in a hypnotic monologue or two. The best thing that Figgis achieves in this film is his cruel and deliberate intersplicing of mood-killing incidents (invariably caused by alcohol) between the moments of love and passion that Shue and Cage share. It is a relentless reminder that their love story is completely doomed. Sting's My One and Only Love is all over this film, which I thought was a very good choice, in addition to the beautiful and haunting score.
The final act focuses a little too much on Shue and not enough on Cage, and whilst their final scene together was appropriately pathetic to suit the tragedy of the film, I couldn't help but feel less engaged. I also didn't enjoy Shue's constant commentary, given that it doesn't really go anywhere.
But between the raw passion of Nicholas Cage and the uncompromising guiding hand of Mike Figgis, any complaints I could ever have otherwise found in Leaving Las Vegas are completely washed away.
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