Sunday, March 17, 2013

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Nicolas Cage Film Fest Movie #2 (this would have been perfect for my addiction-themed movie collection)

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I wanted to showcase an Irish-themed movie or two this year (this one doesn't qualify, although it certainly deals with drinking!), but I couldn’t find anything good. In the meantime, please click the links to read my reviews of The Snapper, The Brothers McMullen and The Commitments).
Synopsis: It’s like a really, really sad version of Arthur.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) is a career alcoholic who has hit rock bottom. Trashing all personal and professional ties to his LA existence, he sets off for the lights of Vegas on a mission: to drink himself to death. There he meets Sera (Shue), a beautiful, seen-it-all hooker ensnared in a destructive relationship with her pimp, Yuri (Julian Sands).

What Did I Learn?: When you’re drunk and obnoxious, people will pay you money to leave and never come back.

You Might Like This Movie If: You know that drinking is bad news.

Really?: 1) Um...I’m pretty sure the ‘hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold’ is a Hollywood invention. And while I’m sure that sex trade workers sometimes do in fact fall in love, I had a LOT of trouble believing Sera would want to have anything to do with a stumbling-down-drunk alcoholic. 2) So, what was the point of including Yuri in this film? He’s gonzo after about 20 minutes 3) Could anyone drink as much as Ben does without, um...passing out repeatedly?

Rating: Leaving Las Vegas is one of those films that provokes one of two reactions: you either love it, or you hate it, and I’m pretty much in the latter category. Without a doubt, Cage and Shue deliver excellent performances as a couple of extremely troubled individuals. Moreover, the cinematography is beautiful, and the soundtrack features some nice, mellow jazz by Sting. I can see why it won an Oscar. And while I generally go for bittersweet, character-driven movies, it’s not easy to watch Leaving Las Vegas – it’s extremely depressing, and marred by a couple of problems: a) I didn’t really believe Sera would take Ben into her home, especially under the terms that she isn’t allowed to tell him not to drink, and b) Ben is just a self-destructive idiot, and the film never gives us any reasons to give a shit about him. I’m only sort-of recommending this one. 6.5/10 stars.

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