Ben Sanderson (Nicholas Cage) is an alcoholic who has nothing left to live for but the very booze that seems to be the only happiness he can find. His friends want nothing to do with him and women are disgusted by him. After being let go from his job, Ben burns all of his possessions and moves to Las Vegas, where his only plan is to drink himself to death. In a short amount of time he meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a lonely hooker who has been through it all. An unexpected bond is formed between the two and love falls upon them that can only end in tragedy.
Boy, was this a hard movie to watch, but it was so well-done and executed. You are able to sympathize with both Ben and Sera, despite the paths they have chosen. Nicholas Cage was amazing and brilliant. No wonder why he won an Academy Award for his performance. You really buy into the fact that he is this sad character who wants nothing more but to destroy himself by the only thing that can bring him some sense of false happiness. Shue is also terrific in her role and should be applauded as well. The two are explosive as a team and can really bring the house down.
"Leaving Las Vegas" is drama at its best. It's heartbreaking, but at the same time is satisfying. It's emotionally charged from start to finish. The writing is poetic, the acting is electric, and the directing is fantastic. Be warned, this is not a "feel-good" movie. It's a portrait of harsh reality and it doesn't go easy on you for a second. If you want a powerhouse drama that will keep you emotionally involved, this is the one for you. A terrific and amazing film on every front.
Nicholas Cage gives a haunting performance as Ben Sanderson, a man who has lost everything and come to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. On his way down he meets a prostitute named Sera and in their spiraling despair they discover love. One of the most poignant moments in the film comes when Cage is on the streets of Las Vegas seeking human contact and can’t remember whether he lost everything because of his drinking or started drinking because he lost everything. Cage’s performance rings absolutely true and deservedly won him the Oscar. He shows with great tenderness the sad realism of being an alcoholic.
Matching Cage scene for scene is Elizabeth Shue in a brilliantly realized role that should have won an Oscar. As this working girl begins to care about Ben she discovers she is not dead inside, like some, and can still love. But when Ben finally pushes her away in order to save her she realizes that if she lets him, she may very well lose this power to love and her connection to being human. Going back, however, may be more than her heart can bare.
Figgis has made a mesmerizing film of almost overwhelming sadness. This is not a ‘feel good’ movie by any stretch of the imagination. There is both truth and poetry here though for those who know this life. Ben and Sera are like two roses; one withering at the onset of its last winter and the other finding an unexpected bud on a long dormant vine.
An incredible sountrack with artist like Michael MacDonald and Sting is used to set the tone for this wonderful but difficult to watch film. Anyone who has ever been devastated by a loss and known a Sera will be moved by this heartbreaking journey into loneliness and despair. Though brilliant, its appeal may be limited and it is easy to understand why some are not as enthusiastic about it.
But for those who have even seen or experienced a glimmer of this side of life and been shown the comforting tenderness of love on the way down, the final moments of this film will be almost painful to watch and deeply affecting. Figgis has made a masterpiece for all those who have walked away before the night swallowed them up completely and they were lost forever.
This is the film that Nic Cage was born to make. It is his best performance by a mile. Unfortunately it makes watching pretty much everything else he has done frustrating as he has never hit these heights again.
The bleak premise of the film, a broken man drinking himself to death in the company of a hooker whose pimp has been killed, could put some people off. Don't be one of them, this film has a rare beauty and emotional depth.
If you want to see a love story that isn't saccharine, cliched guff then this is it.