Leaving Las Vegas

Mike Figgis


If you ever find yourself in the strange position of having been excessively happy for several days, and you’re thinking that what you could use is a little sadness, then this is your movie. Other than that, if you want to see a really depressing movie with one of the single most staggering acting performances in the history of cinema, I can recommend “Leaving Las Vegas” for that as well.

There’s not much else to say. If you haven’t already heard about Nicolas Cage’s performance in this film, you probably don’t know much about movies, and that’s okay. But if you’re curious about what good acting looks like, you should check this out. He plays Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic who has lost his family and job and leaves L.A. in order to drink himself to death in Las Vegas. There he meets a hooker with a heart of gold (Elizabeth Shue, justifiably nominated for Best Actress), and they connect, except not that much because he still drinks himself to death despite having found his soulmate. The story is simple and difficult to fuck up, so director Mike Figgis succeeds just by not getting in the way of the two stars.

I actually don’t have anything original to say in this review that hasn’t already been said (better) by hundreds of other critics. The only reason I include it is in case some reader that never considered seeing “Leaving Las Vegas” happens to be perusing the site and stumbles across it and decides, “Hey, I think I’ll check it out if this one internet guy says Nic Cage gives such an amazing performance.” Then that hypothetical reader will owe me big time for turning them on to the greatest acting performance ever, and I’ll be able to collect recompense, godfather-like, at some undisclosed future date.

The film is also interesting for being the soaring high-point of three mediocre careers: Nic Cage, who after showing some real acting chops here decided to go the Michael Bay douchebag route in films like “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “National Treasure;” Elizabeth Shue, who hadn’t done anything before besides “Karate Kid,” “Adventures in Babysitting,” and the latter “Back to the Future”s, and hasn’t done anything since besides such award-winning films as “The Trigger Effect” and “Hollow Man;” and Figgis, known before “Leaving” for 1990´s “Internal Affairs” and since for such “Academy” fare as “The Loss of Sexual Innocence” and an episode of “The Sopranos.”

Any serious film fan or aspiring actor should see this movie. Cage’s performance is that important. It is a heartbreaking story that feels absolutely authentic thanks to Cage and Shue.

I was going to rate this a 9 because it´s so depressing that I almost never want to see it again. But you know what? That’s bullshit! If a movie has that sort of impact, it means it’s truly special. And this movie is flawless. The fact that it makes you want to kill yourself is something to consider before watching, sure, but that doesn’t make it any less of a goddamn masterpiece.

22 March 2010

Other Reviews for “Leaving”


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