DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

LEAVING LAS VEGAS (director/writer: Mike Figgis; screenwriter: based on the novel by John O'Brien; cinematographer: Declan Quinn/; editor: John Smith; music:  Mike Figgis; cast: Richard Lewis (Peter), Nicolas Cage (Ben Sanderson), Elisabeth Shue (Sera), Julian Sands (Yuri), Valerio Golina (Terri), Steven Weber (Marc Nussbaum), Kim Adams (Sheila), Emily Procter (Debbie); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lila Cazes/Anne Stewart; MGM (United Artists); 1995)

"The artistic direction of Figgis keeps it honest and unsentimental."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mike Figgis ("One Night Stand"/"Cold Creek Manor"/"Stormy Monday") adapts to the screen the glum 1991 autobiographical novel by John O'Brien. The melodrama centers around the death wish of the alcoholic Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage). Ben's a former screenwriter and a Hollywood talent rep, moving to LV for a fresh start after fired from the agency and dealing with a bad marriage. Still drinking, Ben begins a romance with the Vegas high-priced hooker Sera (Elisabeth Shue). The needy couple don't try to change each other, as Ben continues on a downward spiral after failing to deal with his drinking problems.

Cage superbly plays the drunken depressed character, who reaches down to his inner demons to play out his last existential hand. Like in The Lost Weekend, the protagonist is on a self-destructive course, in a familiar real-life tale, and can't stop his fall. In Vegas Cage is set to drink himself to death.

What makes things special here, is how easily the glamor of Hollywood and Vegas are stripped away. The artistic direction of Figgis keeps it honest and unsentimental.

Julian Sands plays the Latvian pimp of Shue.

There are Sting vocals in the background.

Cage won the Best Actor Oscar for this performance.

REVIEWED ON 10/11/2015       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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