Leaving Las Vegas (1995) Poster

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Powerful Film About Loneliness And Acceptance
flipgirl3815 May 2005
Remarkable. Touching. Riveting. Leaving Las Vegas is all of these and then some. I have not seen a film of this magnitude about loneliness and acceptance in such a while that I was in tears for much of the run time.

Nicholas Cage is Ben, a man who has lost his wife and child, throws his job away, and takes all of his remaining money to buy as much liquor as possible and "drink himself to death" in the city of Las Vegas. He has given up all hope, with no wish to live, but for one reason or another, wants a companion to share in his misery, but not try to save him. He finds this companion in a hooker, Sera, played by Elizabeth Shue. They immediately form a strong relationship based on one night of talking about their lives. Sera in particular quickly grows attached to Ben, for no other reason than she has been alone her whole life and wants nothing more than to feel that want and need by someone.

Cage won his first Oscar for his role as Ben, and how deserved it was. He was astounding, perfection, down to every single tick, the volume of his voice, the pain and tragedy buried in his eyes. I could not believe the extent of his role, the dedication and time he invested in bringing this character to life. Same goes for Elizabeth Shue, who with a simple glance at a person, she reveals her entire self, and no one even dares to notice except for Ben. This neediness is apparent, she wants to hold onto this relationship so badly, yet what makes their relationship work is total and complete acceptance of their respective decisions. He will not tell her to stop being a hooker, and she in return can never ask him to stop drinking. And it is in that factor that makes this film worth watching. To be totally accepted by those around them, to open themselves up to such an extreme.

Leaving Las Vegas is a sobering film about connections, loneliness, acceptance, and a small little island of hope that is Ben and Sera. They are two good people, depicted in a world full of sorrows and misdeeds, who latch onto each other and never let go. They were nothing but ghosts, till that chance encounter, and became each others worlds. Cage and Shue bring these good people to life in such an extraordinary way, making Leaving Las Vegas a film to be treasured and remembered for years to come. I highly recommend this film.
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The dignity of love and the depths of despair
mstomaso3 June 2005
If Mike Figgis never made another film, and Nick Cage and Elizabeth Shue retired after making Leaving Las Vegas, they would have done so with impunity. Both actors are superb, and bring the excellent screenplay to life with the help of some masterful dramatic cinematography.

Cage plays a suicidal alcoholic who has come to Las Vegas to drink himself to death, and Shue plays the unexpected problem - a prostitute who falls in love with him. The only reason this film did not receive a ten from me is the voice-over technique which was tastefully minimal, but, in my opinion, the only mistake the director made. It does help to provide closure, but I felt that closure was an unnecessary compromise here.

This is not an entertaining film, and in truth, I am surprised by its popularity among typical audiences. It is a serious film, and a work of art, but fun is not to be found here. DO NOT see this film if you dislike feeling emotionally drained and ethically challenged, and DO NOT see it if you are very prone to boredom, or easily offended by sexual violence, substance abuse and the horror of daily life on the street.

This is an intensely sad film about love shared by people who are caught in the gravity of their lives and can not escape. It is also a story of redemption and respect, found in improbable places. It is NOT a fun-filled frolicking romantic comedy, but rather, the opposite, and it achieves a beauty, dignity and power almost unique among films treating such starkly real and disturbing subjects.
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Amazing, and gritty performances
jguz583 May 2003
It's not a movie I could bear to watch very often, because it's sad to see people destroy themselves. But Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue are riveting to watch here. As a person who has a past involvement in alcohol and substance abuse, I found Cage's performance especially compelling, and after watching him in this one, I am sure glad that lifestyle is behind me!

The chemistry between these two is really great, two people that need each other in different ways, trying to cope with how screwed up their lives have become. Very real performances, if you're faint-of-heart be ready for some strong words, and not just obscenities. Wow! They really lay it on the line. Great performances by two of my favorites.
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Or, is killing myself a way of drinking?
film-critic3 February 2005
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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Viva Greek Tragedies
hlcepeda5 January 2004
Not unlike John Huston's Under The Volcano, Leaving Las Vegas borrows from Greek mythology, obliquely mirroring the tragedy and pathos of Orpheus' failed attempt to rescue his dead wife, Eurydice, from Hades. Mike Figgis obliges us with a helpful hint in the scene where Nicolas Cage gives Elizabeth Shue a present of earrings: Greek cameos.

As in the ancient tale, love challenges the inevitability of death, although, in the case of LLV, roles are upended and sometimes blurred, and Orphean references are either thinly disguised, or non-specific to the point of being thoroughly sublimated. Academic, to be sure, but completely acceptable as long as LLV can sustain itself and remain engaging. And it surely does, thanks to Figgis' intelligent script and direction, Cage's role as a down-and-out writer and his protracted self-destruction, and Shue's portrayal of a lonely hooker, lifting that old bromide beyond what could have been routine, to a level not seen since Jane Fonda's character in Klute. Excellent performances all around.

With all that said, this film is not for everyone (in particular those who only respond to gratuitous sex, car chases, and mindless pyrotechnics). The lurid depictions of despair, self-loathing, and violence could put off even the most hardened social worker. In my mind's eye, I could see psychiatrists amongst the theater audiences, furiously jotting down their observations. Understandable; the two principal characters are, in the common parlance, screwed up. One cannot cope with failure, so decides to opt out, while the other does cope, but only barely, existing along the ragged edges of what passes for society in Nevada Hell. These details, though, tend to outline and, indeed, strengthen the true heart of this film: Sacrifice and Unconditional Love.

If this film is not for everyone, then who is it for? Those with real life experience and the maturity gained thereby. Those with strong emotional constitutions. Anyone appreciative of impassioned performances. Freudians. Alcoholics, recovering and otherwise. Pimps. Priests. Classicists. Petty whiners in need of perspective. And, more than anyone else, couples who plan on breaking up. In sickness and in health, 'til death do us part. 9.5 out of 10.
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Leaving My Senses perhaps . . . but there's more here than meets the eye.
WCS027 June 2005
I've seen this film 5 or 6 times. It occurred to me on the last viewing that it could be the ultimate Touched by an Angel – Ben's time in Las Vegas, that is. I believe author John O'Brien thought he was living through a hallucination in the final throes of his diseased life.

The possibility rises out of several conspicuous dynamics in the film.

First, that Ben's life was invested developing Hollywood drama prior to being dismissed by his boss, who will clearly miss his talent and personality in the office, a talent singularly broken by the ravages of alcoholism. He is good at inventing and developing "story". If his occupation had been Investment Banking or Teaching, I'd feel differently. But John O'Brien bore him with a Hollywood mind. That lit the flame for me.

That Ben repeatedly calls Sera his angel during his demise - as he enjoys the best of - and endures the worst of - Las Vegas living. It is possible that all of it is a hallucination during the final pathetic act of his life. The invention of Sera makes his passing bearable, doable, a possible goal for him.

That Sera endures the college team horrors, discuses her relationship with the off-camera therapist to whom she confesses her soul-deep love for Ben ... even the problems with her pimp and landlord constitute deep back story in the mind of a man with a talent for such invention, desperate to flesh out the reasons why this angel will escort him to the next world. In my last analysis, she is an angel divined in his fertile mind to embody all of the good people and events in his life (the wealth flashback memories, e.g.). Sera has come to take him out while steeling the love in his heart. She sees him for what he is, because that's what responsible angels do.

This is a work with metaphor far beyond the veneer of the surface dialog. It's a film demanding to be viewed more than once. Or perhaps, I'm just going nuts, have lost it and I'm hallucinating in my own right.

Either way, enjoy. 10 out of 10.
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Unconditional love in an alcoholic haze.
hitchcockthelegend17 June 2009
Ben Sanderson is an alcoholic, who after getting released from his well paid screen writing position, heads to Vegas with his severance pay. Where he seriously plans to drink himself to death. But whilst cruising down the strip he meets Sera, a nicely turned out prostitute, and both troubled souls come together in an unlikely romance.

Based around the semi-autobiographical novel by John O'Brien, an alcoholic who committed suicide before the film made it to the screen, this is a sad, dark and deeply upsetting picture. Sanderson and his plight has no motive, we are not fed reasons for his nihilistic behaviour. We find him at the beginning of the film joyously hurtling thru a liquor market isle, promptly filling his shopping cart with bottles of liquor. From here on in we know that this is no ordinary film about an alcoholic trying to get off the booze, we are on a train to Bleakville, stops at Love and Liberation seem a very long way away.

Enter Sera, the sweet and wholesome prostitute, who having escaped the abusive and borderline psycho pimp, Yuri, is herself in need of liberation. But can she carry the burden of both as this unlikely and almost certainly doomed romance starts to become significant? Nicholas Cage as Sanderson is terrific, very compelling, realistic and segueing from zany wired comedy to the desolation of Sanderson's death wish descent within a heart beat. Elisabeth Shue as Sera is also incredibly potent, if perhaps guilty of looking too pristine, and prompting questions of why she would be drawn to Ben's world anyway?

Shue none the less works her socks off to make Sera sensitive and believable. Directed by Mike Figgis, who shot it beautifully in Super 16 film, the film won a Best Actor Academy Award for Cage, and garnered nominations for Best Actress {Shue} & Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay {both Figgis}. Massively popular and praised on release, it has lost none of the impact that it had back then. 8/10
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An unrelenting tragedy, with raw and passionate performances
luke-a-mcgowan12 June 2015
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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Cage's Career Milestone
CurtMan@LVCM.com22 October 2004
"Leaving Las Vegas" is an insightful, harrowing experience about the binding forces of true romance, the power of encouragement and compassion, and the tragic effects of alcoholism. The performances are absolutely astounding: Nicholas Cage delivers one of the most unforgettable, genuine, and human performances ever captured on film (a well-deserved Oscar for every reason), and Elisabeth Shue, as his soul provider and protector through the trauma of his alcoholic turmoil is sentimental, passionate, and definitely deserving of the Oscar for Best Actress in 1995, providing us with the eye of Ben Sanderson's heart and soul, as his equally troubled lover who has pledged to stay with him through tears and trials. Director Mike Figgis is intensely effective in following the many turmoils of Sanderson as he copes with terminal alcoholism, even going so far as to declaring he will "drink himself to death in Las Vegas", and the effects of his struggle upon his functions, health, and spirit, as well as the corresponding attributes of his loyal lover, Sara. I'm certain that anyone who has experienced the turmoil of alcoholism or has been deeply involved with such an abuser will gravely appreciate the realism and depth of this film to address the egregious effects of drinking constantly, and how this alcoholism tears many lives literally apart. I was horrified by Sanderson's dependence upon alcoholism as a substitute for happiness and control, and Nicholas Cage's uncanny human performance, with all of his appropriate, convincing twitches and erratic movements, enhanced the compassion and torment I felt for this character, who has literally surrendered his life to this terrible disease of alcoholism. We gasp in horror as we see Sanderson taking a shower with a bottle of gin in hand, and trembling to the refrigerator for a bottle of vodka: these are the true, tragic symptoms of alcoholism, and this film does an excellent job in addressing them. A brilliant, tragic, yet extremely essential study of the disease of alcoholism and how it can destroy every aspiration, every desire, and every state of consciousness we have within ourselves, when we are constantly craving "one more bottle of vodka" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week... Nicholas Cage delivers one of the most heartfelt and eerily convincing performances in the history of film, and this is one lamentable, subliminal look at one of the saddest and unnecessary addictions in humans: striving to either enhance, better, or in this case, destroy their lives in constantly drinking intoxicating and deadly substances. Sanderson to Sara: "You can never make me stop drinking"--- the sad, yet frighteningly real state of mind of a disparaged, hopeless, alcoholic. **** out of ****
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beautiful cinematography
kimjoh1 May 2005
I remember seeing this film when it came out, not really knowing what to expect. the only thing i knew about the film was that Nicolas Cage was in it. i saw it with my girlfriend and i remember that throughout the movie nobody made a sound, no annoying popcorn munchers, no one getting up to go to the toilet, just complete silence. And after the film was finished and the credits were rolling across the screen people still sat quiet in their seats. The film is beautifully played and directed. The sober jazz music from sting fits like a glove. To this day my girlfriend want let me see leaving las Vegas again because i get mellow and "preoccupied" for several days.
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I'll let you....
sarfoking24 March 2020
Leaving Las Vegas is a brilliant film. Nicolas Cage in the first 10 minutes of the film was just enough evidence that he deserved that Oscar. The chemistry between Nicolas and Elisabeth Shue elevated this film!
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Bravura Cage & Shue; latter day "Days of Wine & Roses"; flawless tragic love story
george.schmidt11 April 2003
LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995) **** Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands. (Cameos: Richard Lewis, Steven Weber, Carey Lowell, French Stewart, Julian Lennon, Mariska Hargitay, R. Lee Ermey, Ed Lauter, Danny Huston, Lucinda Jenney, Lou Rawls, Laurie Metcalf, Shawnee Smith, Bob Rafelson,Xander Berkley). Uncompromisingly bleak and powerful portrayal of unconditional love between two tragic misfits. Cage in a bravura performance, that justifiably garnered him a Best Actor Oscar, vows to give up on life and heads to Vegas to drink himself to death where he meets and falls for pretty victimized hooker Shue (the performance of her career, and Best Actress nominee) who decides to love him for what he is. Excellent rapport and believably realistic performances and excellent adaptation of John O' Brien's semi-autobiographical novel of total despair. O' Brien committed suicide shortly after his novel was being produced into a film. Filmed in grainy 16MM and blown up to 35MM gives it an all too natural look. Look sharply for the film's director Mike Figgis as a goateed thug after pimp Sands.
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Okay, But Why?
tedg14 September 2001
There's a deal you make with an artist: they get to satisfy themselves but they also have to satisfy us.

What's interesting is the balance Figgis has struck. There's a whole lot more emphasis on the film-specific elements: blocking, transitions, particularly apt sound and soundtrack, in out in in out cadences.

The ordinary theatrical elements are slighted: dialog, character development, old fashioned story values. This balance works for me in `Time Code,' because the filmic experiment is so intriguing. And a similar balance works with `Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,' a film congruent in respects other than the city.

But the balance completely fails here. I don't care about Cage, or his character. No greater focus is raised. There is a successful evocation of style, but it is wasted. As contrast, `Fight Club,' raised a much more intriguing and troubling world. The acting doesn't impress me so much. Playing a drunk or a mental incompetent is a lesser art, and it is a rare film where illustrious acting can alone make the trip worthwhile.

Figgis is interesting, and I'll go out of my way to watch his fuses, but he hasn't connected them to anything explosive yet.
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Highly Over-rated
ShahrukhRaja15 November 2006
It's difficult to understand why this movie created so much hype. Admittedly, Cage's acting was stupendous - but if the movie was trying to send out a message, it failed miserably. It is never revealed what got him to his alcoholic state in the first place; like he says in one scene 'I don't remember if my wife left me coz I drink too much or I drink too much coz my wife left me'. The only solid point which was depressingly evident was how two people, due to their profession (one being a hooker) and personal habit (the other being an alcoholic), are treated as pariahs in the world and find solace in each other, despite not appreciating the choices made by the other. Full marks to Cage and Shue on how they portrayed their respective characters. However, lessons of compromise and compatibility can be put forward in better ways than this.
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Depressing, Dark, Sleazy.
Beyondtherain9 April 2020
After watching Ed Gein 2000 and turning it off because it got so boring, I watched Leaving Las Vegas for the first time last night...The jazz, the cinematography, such beautiful tweakings to a tragic movie.
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Raw Look at Alcoholism
Michael_Elliott12 February 2013
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

**** (out of 4)

Depressing account of a man (Nicholas Cage) who goes to Las Vegas to drink himself to death and once there he strikes up a relationship with a prostitute (Elisabeth Shue). Going back and watching this film after so many years had a lot of things going through my mind. Such as the first time I watched this it was in the theater as the second part of a double feature with DEAD MAN WALKING. Talk about a depressing four hours in the theater. The second thing it reminded me of was what a terrific actor Cage was and how at the time many people were calling him one of the greatest of his generation. I bring this up considering the type of films Cage is currently doing. LEAVING LAS VEGAS is without question a very dark and depressing film and it always amuses me that people attacked the picture for this. I mean, there are several films each year that shows the fun side of drinking so I always find it strange that so many could object to a film showing the ugly side. I can understand people not wanting to sit through a nearly two-hour suicide movie but at the same time those who can stomach the story are going to be shown one of the best performances from this era. Cage is simply marvelous as the alcoholic who goes on a death wish for reasons we're not fully told. It's funny but the screenplay really doesn't give us much insight to either character other than both are troubled, alone and find some sort of comfort with each other. This love story between the two certainly isn't all that casual or romantic but it's quite unique in its own way. The way Cage controls this character, his various emotions and the physical nature of his body falling apart are simply amazing to watch. It really reminds one of how great he can be when the material is right. Shue also turns in the best performance of her career and you can really see the pain in her eyes as this man she loves is slowly dying. Julian Sands is also quite effective in his few scenes. Director Mike Figgis does an extremely good job with the material but a lot of credit also needs to go towards his film score. LEAVING LAS VEGAS isn't a very pretty movie to watch but then again, why would anyone expect alcoholism to be pretty?
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big disappointment
cecrle18 December 1999
I had heard that this movie was great and depressing. I mostly just found it to be a disappointment. Cage as an alcoholic intent on drinking himself to death, and Shue as a prostitute intent on whoring--not that we know *why* or anything. The best scenes of the movie are when Cage's character fires quips and witticisms in the midst of his drunkenness. But it's not very depressing, because we just aren't given enough information about the characters to care; Cage is drunk from the start, and never really stops, so it's not like we're witnessing the downfall of some great character. All we know about him is that his wife and son left him somehow, and that Shue has a deranged pimp and keeps on whorin'. That's about it. They proceed to act screwed up and hopeless, as *Sting* sings tepid love songs on the soundtrack (yes, *Sting*). The soundtrack selections are so silly, they really ruin the mood of certain scenes--when we would naturally be feeling glum or sorry for the characters, there's goofy jazzy crooning and crap going on in the forefront of the sound; music that says, "Oh, those crazy kids! What wacky things will they do next!" Does not go well with the visual aspects and storyline at all (unless you consider songs playing that mention "kissing" and "love" as the same stuff happens on the screen to be an amazingly creative example of synchronicity and visual-aural interwinement). Very poor, and downright harmful to the atmosphere. By the time the flick ends, you realize: "hey.....nothing much happened in that movie..." Yes, the acting is pretty damn good from both Cage and Shue, but their characters aren't examined/explored/explained enough for us to get any sort of attachment or lasting interest invested in them, and nothing much happens in terms of plot. Cage keeps getting drunk, Shue keeps whoring, and every now and then something a-little-more-screwed-up-than-screwed-up happens. That's about it. Maybe the best things about this movie could be summarized and translated into a piece of some other excellent film, but in and of itself, this movie is blatantly lacking.
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Well done, I just love this
RachelLone12 June 2004
Screenwriter Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) has just been fired from a film company in Hollywood due to his drinking problems. At home there's nothing for him- his wife and his child has left him long time ago. So he sells all his possessions and drives to Las Vegas, planning to drink himself to death within four weeks. He meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a hooker. They soon form a relationship in which neither would interfere with each other's chosen path (Though later, at one point, Sera does want Ben to seek help. She can't bear watching him die). They are both miserable people and they just fall in love with each other. Just like that.

Both Cage and Shue give breakthrough performances, director Mike Figgis (also the screenwriter and co-original score writer) takes much credit. The sad beauty and the bright yet dark atmosphere of Las Vegas are well-portrayed. The soundtrack is brilliant.

The movie is filmed in this way: apparently Sera has been seeing a shrink and the scenes of her talking about her relationship with Ben are inserted at chosen moments. It is done as flashback.

Definitely among my top 100.
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HEY! And we got eggs!!
hortonaaron25 June 2020
I find some of these very low ratings surprisingly offensive. Of course your entitled to your opinion about the film, but some of the comments made were a little irritating to say the least. For one I'm a recovering alcoholic, I know what it's like to go through all the struggles that come with it. I thought Nicholas Cage nailed it!! For some of these critics to mock and insult the performance that Cage gave really gets under my skin. Unless you have experienced the struggle of Alcoholism, then u have no room to critize how u think his performance should have gone. On another note, for the other critics calling this the worst movie ever made, or how unbearable or boring this movie was etc. etc. Here's a thought, collect your belongings, get up and leave the theater, or turn off your TV. I love this movie, love the soundtrack, and I watch it atleast once a month. A constant reminder of the struggles of Alcoholism, and not just Alcoholism, but the individual struggles that each person deals with on a daily basis. Well done Mike Figgis!!!
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The Least Enjoyable Movie I Have Ever Seen
noahk28 December 2001
Sitting through this film made me rethink how I view movies in general. Although this is a bold statement, I don't mean it as praise for this film. Quite simply, I found it so horrible to watch, it made me realize that I generally go to movies primarily to be entertained. Sure, sometimes I might be in the mood for something thought provoking, rather than outright entertaining, but "Leaving Las Vegas," was neither as far as I'm concerned.

The story essentially is about a man (Nicholas Cage) who, despite success in his career, has seemingly lost his family due to his drinking, and he has made a decision to go to Las Vegas and spend the rest of his money as he intends to kill himself drinking. In Las Vegas, he meets an unlikely kindred spirit in a hooker (Elisabeth Shue), and they embark on a rather untraditional relationship with nothing positive to be gained as a result of it.

The initial problem for me was, I didn't like either the characters or the premise. I found Cage to be without any value whatsoever and the movie would have been much better (and shorter, albeit entirely unnecessary) if he had just killed himself immediately and spared the audience from having to watch it. I had no empathy for him and the sad situation he had gotten himself into. Shue was slightly less pathetic, I suppose, but I still didn't find myself caring what happened to her. I'm not sure what about Cage's performance made it worthy of an Oscar-- he just acted like himself but a little bit dopier.. big stretch!

Overall, I found it an extremely unpleasant film to watch (to put it mildly) and I resented having wasted $10 on tickets and over two hours of my life suffering through it. I have never hated a movie with a passion as much as this one. Not recommended for anybody, as I fail to see what one could derive from such a movie. Rating: 1/10
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Drunken Cage: A Cross Between Peter North & Arthur
JimS_868619 April 2009
I am not quite sure why Leaving Las Vegas was held in such high regard upon it's release in '95. This film was an abysmal failure in just about every respect. I guess if you enjoy seeing beautiful women bare their breasts frequently, the film will succeed for you on some level. But Nicholas Cage's character is pulling more trim than James Bond. He can pound a 5th quicker than Blutarsky, while operating a motor vehicle with such precision that he can outsmart a cop on a motorcycle who actually happens to witness him chugging vodka while driving down the Vegas strip. I guess the moral of this movie is: any slim, middle aged guy with a receding hairline could wallow through life acting like a pitiful drunken buffoon with a tolerance that would probably have eclipsed Farley's, and have gorgeous women constantly throwing themselves at them.

The problem here is with the casting. Perhaps I would have been able to take this material more seriously if Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, or Zac Efron were cast instead of Cage. But even then, you're still faced with the dilemma of asking yourself: why a would a person want to kill themselves when they have all these beautiful women aggressively forcing themselves on them 24/7.

Elisabeth Shue channels Jennifer Jason Leigh as the hooker with a heart of gold. Her relationship with Cage does not amount to much more than mutual self pity for one another. Cage and Shue's chemistry seems forced. The film's frank and explicit sexuality appear to be the main selling point. Leaving Las Vegas may be memorable in terms of shock value and pushing R-rating boundaries, but that is pretty much it.

Literally every scene will leave the viewer scratching their heads. At the beginning of the movie, Cage is in a liquor store filling his cart to maximum capacity with top shelf liquor, and then in the very next scene they show him in a seedy bar begging the bartender to pour him another shot.

The scene where Cage crawls to his refrigerator and fumbles for a beverage is supposed to be a serious moment depicting the hell of going through DT's as a result of severe alcoholism. But Cage's idea of "method acting" in this scene is apeing Jim Carrey from Ace Ventura Pet Detective . Cage convulses violently as if he just grabbed a live electrical wire after getting out of swimming pool every time he takes a swig.

There is another scene at a casino where Cage wants a drink real bad and he loses it, flipping over a blackjack table in the process. Cops politely, gently escort him away with genuine sympathy. Even the dealer looks like she has fallen under Cage's spell. Whether it's a cop or a hooker, everyone Cage encounters in Vegas seem like they are extremely concerned, & care for him deeply. Even a friendly bartender working in a dive bar which gets little business refuses to serve Cage and begs him to seek help. Nobody ever seems the slightest bit annoyed by his buffoonish drunken antics - save for woman who runs a hotel and kicks them out after Cage shatters a glass table outdoors. Shue's character seems flabbergasted that the hotel manager isn't ready to take a bullet for the two of them.

Don't let Cage's Oscar win fool you. Leaving Las Vegas is a pedestrian effort in every respect. Upon it's release, Mike Figgis was hailed by critics as the next Scorsese. 14 years later, he is unheard of. Perhaps one could conclude LLV was a bit overrated upon it's release, and did not hold up over time. That person would be correct.

Top it all off with a terrible original score by Sting. Leaving Las Vegas is an thoroughly unimpressive, unintentionally laughable film that smacks the viewer in the face with it's implausibility at every turn. A movie you will not forget anytime soon.
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A tragedy which will make you feel better!
k_2819 November 2014
Its rare to come across a tragedy which in the end still leaves you something absolutely positive and make you believe in life...that there maybe just maybe true love that exists in this world! Its a story of despair and hopelessness and pain...But its also story of hope , of love and of those beautiful moments which adds meaning to life. Its only when you see death hovering around you ; you end up discovering Life Is Beautiful. Its a paradox and hence a tragedy but beyond that its a pure love. A love so pure that both people say that they want other person for their selfish reasons ; to get over their own loneliness & emptiness and still they manage to make each other truly happy.

Its hard not to be touched by this movie and not have a tear in your eyes. At many moments you stare at the characters on the screen and may see even your own vivid reflection. You can feel for Nicolas Cage because he is good soul who is tired of his life...who nobody really understood or cared for when he needed them most. Someone who has been left to die alone in vast desert. And he conceded to his fate and embracing his death with open arms that he meet someone where two people love each other as they always should have. Without any conditions , without any expectations , without any social or peer pressure ; without wearing any masks on their faces. Bare , honest and tranquil love . Where two people feel other person can feel his pain without speaking ; where two people can cry with each other without being judged and where they can feel each other beyond the skin ..deep underneath the heart...right at their soul.

If anyone ever doubted the existence of soul ; i wish they tell us how else can they describe the two characters in this movie. They nothing but two broken souls who become soulmates to heal each other !!
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My introduction to Mr. Cage
acedj28 April 2020
Leaving Las Vegas is the story of Ben Sanderson played with perfection by Nicolas Cage. Ben is a raging alcoholic and having given up on life liquidates all he owns and goes to Vegas to drink himself to death. He meets a prostitute named Sera, played by the gorgeous Elizabeth Shue, and he pays her to spend time with him while he destroys himself. Sera does her best to try to prevent him from reaching his ultimate goal of death as she ends up falling in love with him.

This movie was the first thing I had ever seen Nick Cage in, and to me this is still his best role. I had been familiar with Elizabeth Shue from The Karate Kid, Cocktail and Adventures In Babysitting, but this was the first role where I saw her really spread her wings and be the actress that she could be. This is a very sad tale, but not one that I regret having seen, as is evident with my 10 star rating. This is an excellent movie with some really superior acting by the two leads.
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Movie greatness
stevojaxon26 December 2019
One of my favorite movies of all time. It makes it invaluable for anyone who has an insider's perspective, or for those who have ever been affected by such people and events. Normally I only watch a movie once, no matter how good it is. But I can re-visit and view this work as many times as I like, with it seeming to be the first viewing. Mike Figgis brought together a work of genius. Cage researched the essence of his character to portray it authentically for us. Shue was the icing on the cake in this story. This movie is a mesmerizing experience. To have captured the couldn't care less (except for the love of booze) attitude of Cage, as he attempts to drink himself to death, is a great achievement. There is no redemption, no saving, no moralizing. It is as it is. Alcoholism with all its devastation.
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Beauty in the Brokenness
truemythmedia23 August 2019
I can't say this is a particularly enjoyable watch or a fun one, but it is a very good movie. Both Cage and Shue showcase their abilities as actors, and Figgis dazzles as a director. This is a story about finding hope and love in the most hopeless and loveless of places; there's beauty in the brokenness, even if that brokenness is hard to behold.
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