Sunday, March 8, 2015

Leaving Las Vegas

Movie Name: Leaving Las Vegas
Year of Release: 1995
Director: Mike Figgis
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands, Richard Lewis, Steven Weber, Emily Procter, Valeria Golino, Graham Beckel, Carey Lowell, Kim Adams
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

By 1995 British director Mike Figgis was coming off a string of interesting films, namely "The Browning Version", "Mr. Jones" and "Liebestraum", all of them somewhat little seen, but nonetheless enough to establish him as a talent to follow (this following the films that launched his career, "Stormy Monday" and "Internal Affairs"). "Leaving Las Vegas" follows the story of Ben Sanderson, a screenwriter, whose wife has abandoned him, and has taken their young son with her. Ben increases his alcohol intake further and further, until he gets fired, upon which he decides to drink himself to death in Las Vegas. While in Vegas he meets a beautiful prostitute by the name of Sera, with enough problems of her own, who unexpectedly forms a bond with Ben, and whom he moves in with. 
"Leaving Las Vegas" revealed itself a surprise critical success in 1995, winning an Academy Award for Nicolas Cage, on top of 3 additional nominations, for Elisabeth Shue (who lost for Susan Sarandon in Tim Robbins' "Dead Man Walking"), and also for best director and adapted screenplay (both for Mike Figgis). The film further cemented the indie movement and Mike Figgis' aesthetic, specifically the natural approach the director aimed for in the way it depicted the characters, interactions between the main players and environments. Unlike Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend", Mike Figgis' main character is bent on killing himself, something that even the love of the tender and beautiful woman he meets can't stop. Both main actors make the film indelible - Nicolas Cage is simultaneously endearing, enraging and funny, while Elisabeth Shue is both hardened and sensitive and caring. These performances fire up a film that is at its core, tragic and sad. A great film worth watching.