Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas, 1995, directed by Mike Figgis
Written by John O'Brien (novel) and Mike Figgis (screenplay)
starring: Nicolas Cage, Elizabeth Shue

"Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his drinking, arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute Sera." (IMDB).

Nic Cage really hit it with this, clearly, but I happen to think that he's *always* this good. That said, the arms-thrown-up-in-victory-after-a-morning-gin-at-the-bar move, his shakes and dry heaves, his tears and emotional apology as he gets fired, the slurring, the sudden smoothness that comes when he gets a burst of energy and optimism from whatever he's been drinking---ALL of this, is so disturbing and sad but played extremely well. Best Actor Oscar went to Cage for this role, I still remember how pumped he was as he walked up to collect the statue; it was fun.

About the rest of the film: aside from the unsettling, disturbing subject matter of a man slowly drinking himself to death, there are many other dark and horrible things that happen here. Sera (Elizabeth Shue) isn't too happy with her life either, it seems (getting knifed by pimp, getting gang-raped and assaulted, etc.) so the relationship between them made sense, but most scenes were still really uncomfortable and tense. If you know someone with a drinking problem, which a lot of us do, *many* of Cage's scenes will be difficult. Getting canned from the screenwriting job and then going home to burn all his manuscripts struck a real chord with me, along with the violent outburst at the casino, ("I'm his father! I'm his father!") Not easy.

Liz? Looking Good!
The thing that I spent the most time thinking about this time around was actually the score---was anyone else at all jarred by it? It oscillates between different jazz genres, sometimes night club, other times like a Woody Allen clarinet kind of thing, and then there's also a Sting verse that seriously gets overplayed maybe 600 times . . . I don't know if it all really did much in the way of tying the room together, if you know what I mean. There are no uplifting moments in this film, maybe a few comical lines spoken (by Cage) but virtually everything else is a huge downer, and sometimes it felt like the music was going a little too far into Woody Allen-silly world, and not in an ironic way, either.



Unknown said...

Oh yeah. Great movie and I am a Nicolas Cage fan too. I was actually put off that he was playing a Wizard in The Apprentice. I was like seriously? Nick Cage? Well he rocked that roll too.

Donald said...

Nicolas Cage is an amazing actor when he's in the right role. Why is he never in the right role anymore? Somebody should just put him in Leaving Las Vegas 2 already.

Anna said...

a reanimated corpse strolling along the strip?

Justin Garrett Blum said...

It's weird how many good movies I've never seen and how many bad movies I've seen. I should just break down and get Netflix already.

Nic Cage hasn't been doing too well lately. I can't even really remember the last good part he had, though I did like National Treasure, and I didn't hate the sequel. Hardly a challenging role, however. I think the last movie of his I saw that I liked and thought he brought a lot to the role was Matchstick Men.

Donald said...

Matchstick Men was fantastic, as was the first National Treasure.

I've actually never made it through Leaving Las Vegas, although the parts I've seen were very good.