• R, 1 hr. 52 min.
  • Drama, Romance
  • Directed By:
    Mike Figgis
    In Theaters:
    Oct 27, 1995 Wide
    On DVD:
    Feb 24, 1998
  • United Artists

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Leaving Las Vegas Reviews

Page 2 of 133
Cle S.
April 1, 2014
It's hard to believe that Nicolas Cage had been a serious actor back in the mid 90's but here is the proof! From today's view and if you're a bit zynical you could ask the question if he really performed or if this movie was just daily routine for him ;-)
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

March 27, 2014
They always say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but this time, what happens in Vegas is finally breaking out, baby. Seriously though, Nicolas Cage is an alcoholic hanging out with a prostitute in Las Vegas, and that's... about right. No, that's all kinds of right, because something that crazy sounds like something that anyone would do in Vegas, as well as something along the lines of something that Cage would do anywhere. Well, this was still enough of a stretch for Cage to get the man an Oscar, probably because the Academy didn't realize back in 1995 that he would kind of go on to squander the honor with plenty of real-life craziness, although that's not to say that I didn't still thoroughly enjoy Cage's performance. I probably would have enjoyed it more if, he wasn't matched by Elizabeth Shue, not in this film, but in real-life right now. I presume Shue is herself something of an alcoholic, because while she's not turning out to be the big star she hoped she would be, Cage just keeps getting questionable work in which he does the same thing, only, you know, with much less acting material. Wow, working a little harder really does seem to get Cage and, by extension, a film with Cage a pretty fair distance, though not so far that you can past the film's own issues.

In so many ways, the film tries so hard to be unique, so much so that it all of the overt efforts to freshen things up tend to overshadow familiarity, but not wholly, for although this particularly interpretation of formulaic subject matter has plenty of inspiration to it, it's hard to completely disregard certain tropes to storytelling and even characterization. There's something a little too recognizable to the development of such characters as the eccentric alcoholic or the gold-hearted hooker, yet still not recognizable enough, as characterization and other forms of narrative development feel, not so much undercooked, but, if you will, uneven, underselling certain realist traits in order to thin out dynamicity to human depths, while overselling many histrionic traits in order to bloat romanticism. In other words, underdevelopment limits the layers to the depth of the narrative, and histrionics make it even more difficult to buy into questionable character traits and melodramatic conflicts, so as a character study, in a lot of ways, this drama is pretty messy, at least when it comes to Mike Figgis' script. Most every other aspect to the telling of this story is strong enough to thoroughly endear you to the questionably drawn melodrama, and really, even Figgis' script has a lot to it worth commending, maybe even praising, but characterization and dramatic depth remains thinned out, while other plotting elements go bloated, with excess material and meandering filler that quickly get to be repetitious, maybe even focused, particularly when the questionable story structuring devolves into being borderline abstractionist. What is not all that talked about is the fact that this is actually something of an art drama that has plenty of substance, but still has a tendency to get carried away with artistry, expressed through anything from a near-ethereal atmosphere, near-trippy visuals and stylish filming and editing, to an offbeat, intentionally disjointed narrative style that would be easier to get over if it was more realized. The film can't fully figure out the degree to which is utilizes its overblown artistic license, yet too often, that license is abused, maybe not to the point of plaguing the final product with a sense of pretense, but certainly to the point of having the final product get overambitious with its frantic storytelling style, thin characterization and melodrama, until finally collapsing as underwhelming. If the film was to settle down its questionable moves, then it would have rewarded pretty thoroughly, maybe even stood out, yet take that comment as more reflective of just how inspired the strengths are in this frequently flawed art melodrama, including certain stylistic ones.

The drama thrives on style, and while storytelling style is often questionable, other forms of style are perhaps consistently impressive, with visual style delivering on plenty of nifty and dynamic shots, complimented by cinematography by Declan Quinn which has a certain grime that captures the drama's bleakness, while still containing enough polish to compliment the dazzle of a Vegas setting that is itself complimentary of the groovy coloration to the film's tone that is further sold by an excellent jazz, swing and classic pop soundtrack. Yes, even musical style flavors things up, whether it feature the aforementioned lyrical tunes, or feature an original score by Mike Figgis that, I must say, is pretty outstanding, with tightly well-arranged jazzy compositions, as well as minimal classical pieces that are truly haunting, with a certain atmospheric warmth to it that transports you into the film's most effective moments as an art piece and drama. Needless to say, it's Figgis' directorial orchestration which really sells style in the context of substance as much as it can, for although Figgis gets way too carried away as an artistic storyteller, when his efforts go realized, stylish meditativeness draws you into the environment which is pretty prominently played upon, especially when dramatic heights come into play, resonating through a tastefully tender play on the haunting visual and musical style. Gritty, human and all around pretty profound in certain areas, this drama has moments - from moments of effectively sentimental breakthrough in the characters' personal and interactive shifts, to an admittedly disturbing final act - of realization to directorial storytelling that are often strong and sometimes downright outstanding, and while they're certainly few and far between in a final product that is generally kind of underwhelming, they still stand, reflecting what could have been a more solid interpretation of pretty solid subject matter. A meditation upon refusal to abate from self-destruction during the building of a meaningful, but rocky relationship, this film takes on a worthy, if familiar story, and not especially well, at least when it comes to a script by Figgis that is unevenly characterized, melodramatic and overblown, structurally and stylistically, yet still has elements to it that drive the heart of this drama, through certain cleverness, as well as an audacious attention to graphic content, both vulgarly reflective of grimy themes, and intensely reflective of heavy drama. There's a lot of ambition to this gritty drama, and although it's overblown to the point of being questionable, it begets certain inspiration in the offscreen performances, even if it's not as consistently effective as the onscreen performances, most every one of which is pretty solid, especially those by the leads, with the lovely Elisabeth Shue capturing the sense of frustration and revelation in a woman who finds a true connection with a human being she might not be able to tolerate watching fall apart, while leading man Nicolas Cage really stands out, not just with a trademark loony charisma that sells the over-the-top eccentricities of the Ben Sanderson character as well as it can, but with an startling anxiety to his physical and emotional acting that gives you a sense of mental and medical deterioration to a broken man looking to die as he lived: as an addict. Cage's remarkable performance is utterly devastating in its raw intensity, and if you have any doubt about the man's abilities as an actor, this film is an essential viewing, and while I very much wish that I could say that the project is just that when you look at it as more than just a vehicle for phenomenal acting, rather than an uneven and dramatically and artistically overblown pseudo-mess of a melodrama, the moments of considerable inspiration are well worth waiting for, even if the moments between them require plenty of patience.

When it is, in fact, finally time to leave, conventions are the far from the biggest thing you have to worry about in storytelling which goes plagued with uneven characterization, melodrama, repetitious structural excess, and questionable and even disjointed abstractionism to artistry, until the final product fails to achieve a rewarding status that it comes close to achieving on the wings of the haunting cinematography, colorful song soundtrack, beautiful score and gritty story - brought to life by heartfelt direction, audacious writing and sensational performances, particularly the soaring one by Nicolas Cage - that secure "Leaving Las Vegas" as a compelling and sometimes powerful drama, despite only coming to the brink of rewarding.

2.75/5 - Decent
March 17, 2014
Leaving Las Vegas is remarkable for two reasons - one, it's uncompromising depiction of an alcoholic who drinks himself to death; and two, it's a stark reminder of the days when Nic Cage was an exciting, legitimate actor. Cage is at his most unhinged here, which is saying a lot and why he won Best Actor, and his manic energy guides the film along even when it isn't a particularly enjoyable experience for the viewer. I wasn't as big on the love story aspects as many were, but the omnipresent off-the-cuff feeling, combined beautifully with the jazz score, along with Cage is ultimately what makes it so unique and haunting.
February 26, 2013
Leaving Las Vegas is a largely forgotten film of modern day, but it is known as the film that won the simultaneously great and terrible actor Nicolas Cage an Academy Award for Best Actor. That sound unbelievable, but his talent is undeniable as seen in Adaptation, so a film that he won an Oscar for is not something worth missing.

Leaving Las Vegas is one of the best examples of why Nicolas Cage went on to become such a critically acclaimed actor in the first place, before he went excessively commercial and sold out a lot of the time.
Leaving Las Vegas is a simple film due to the nature of its story being set in a small scale context and relying on the relationship between its protagonists to be the source of drama and insight. The story chronicles a depressed man and a prostitute spending time together in Las Vegas and learning from the lives of each other, and in the process the audience learns a lot from the characters.
The relationship between Ben Sanderson and Sera is a complicated one which begins as the shallow bond between a man and a prostitute engaging in sexual activity, but it later blossoms into a mix of both friendship and tender loving care. As the story goes on, the connection between them grows stronger and Leaving Las Vegas grows more and more interesting. The nature of their relationship is a real one, so it isn't overblown with the cliche optimism from generic romantic films. There is hope in the story, but there is constantly a sense of melancholia in it which leaves a certain haunting darkness over the story. While some viewers may find that the plot is rather thin, those who can find enjoyment in seeing the development of a complicated relationship occur between a drunk and a whore with a heart of gold will enjoy the development in the film.
Despite the characters of the aforementioned drunk and whore with a heart of gold being somewhat cliche they are made unforgettable in Leaving Las Vegas because viewers see a certain depth in them that tends to be only lightly touched upon in the more common drama films which deal with such characters and themes. The screenplay is very intelligent and is packed with language that is both realistic and insightful to the characters, and it makes the film feel more genuine and compelling as well as creating strong characters for the actors to work with.
The film's depiction of Las Vegas is a very realistic one because it isn't focused on the concept of partying or solely focused on gambling, but it rather reveals the gritty dark side of the city which is blinded by all the lights and fancy drinks. The visual depiction of it is all grim and is shot with fine cinematography and lit well for the mood very well, so thanks to the directional effort of Mike Figgis the film succeeds in harnessing its drama and depicting the grit of Las Vegas with a brutal truth to it.
But it is the performances of the lead two actors that make Leaving Las Vegas to be the unforgettable spectacle of drama that it proves to be.
Nicolas Cage's performance is undoubtedly one of the greatest of his career. It is perhaps not as incredible as his greatest performance in the 2002 dramedy Adaptation, but it is still too memorable. Nicolas Cage is presented with a character who is simply a depressive drunk, so what the audience thinks of the character or feels for him all comes from the performance of Nicolas Cage. And he cages the over-the-top nature he is simultaneously praised and lambasted for as an actor and keeps it at just the right level. Nicolas Cage truly succeeds at performing the emotional state of his character Ben Sanderson terrifically. The nature of his character is complicated and very self destructed, and in a restrained effort Nicolas Cage manages to find the perfect line between humanity and insanity. It is not surprising that he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, because thanks to him a character as simplistic as a depressed drunk has barely ever had as much meaning and depth as he gives it. His line delivery and dramatic energy is at some of its highest in Leaving Las Vegas, and anyone who thinks he is a bad actor should really take a look at Leaving Las Vegas and see if they walk away with the same thoughts.
Elizabeth Shue gives the greatest performance of her career in Leaving Las Vegas. Although she'll always be memorable for her performances in the famous 1980's blockbusters Karate Kid and Back to the Future Part II, in Leaving Las Vegas she achieves the success of a performance not yet seen of her. She does for the cliche hooker with a heart of gold character Sera what Nicolas Cage did to the depressive drunk character and brings her to life so much that the impact is too good and just unforgettable. Elizabeth Shue establishes herself as a seriously talented lead actress of legitimate dramatic territory.
The chemistry shared between Nicolas Cage and Elizabeth Shue is spectacular because there is always a lot of drama going on between them, and at the root of it all is a complicated love which is shaken by obsession and dependence. Their romance is real without ever becoming the key source of drama in the film, because what they share has so much more to it and it makes the entire film a lot more compelling and meaningful.

So all in all, Leaving Las Vegas is a drama film with a lot of themes to it. Its story is simple and doesn't go too far, but the dedicated efforts of its lead two actors render it an unforgettable feature of love and grit which is ripe with strong direction from Mike Figgis and his intelligent screenplay all put on display to make their contributions to ensuring that the film succeeds, which it does.
February 8, 2014
Really enjoyed snuggling/cuddling next to my hubby and watching this great movie!
February 8, 2014
The inventive, audacious Nicolas Cage delivers his greatest performance.
March 26, 2013
What a sad and tender little movie. It lags quite a bit in places and both alcoholism and prostitution are given a shiny coat of a Hollywood paint, but man, Cage and Shue are just mesmerizing.
January 27, 2014
I don't have allot to say about this movie, i just love it!
January 17, 2014
A doomed love story shown from the perspective of an alcoholic. Nicholas Cage puts in an award winning performance which makes the movie great, as he plays a drunk who has failed in his career and family life. He travels to Vegas to drink himself into oblivion, but forms an unlikely relationship with a hooker struggling in her own life. Elisabeth Shue plays this role very well as the pair become lovers and share sparks of happiness that neither thought possible. It is carefully directed by Mike Figgis as he tells a tragic tale of two people losing themselves to a dark reality.
January 14, 2014
Disturbing and depressing. I like this the way I like Blue Valentine and Never Let Me Go.
January 9, 2014
The chemistry in "Leaving Las Vegas" is flawless; Figgis, Cage, and Shue find the right formula for romantic perfection and touching drama. Every scene Cage and Shue share the screen together is believable and intrusive. The film flies by, indulging in melancholy and and highly Sting-based soundtrack, and the visuals never leave Las Vegas, in color or in spirit. There is some spectacular action on exhibition here, most obviously for Cage, who plays his role perfectly and with the ability to mesmerize; he has all of the same characteristics that make films like "National Treasure" and "The Wickerman" his, with Figgis allowing him to dig deep into his character, absorbing us with his obvious absorption into the role. Shue is also amazing in a performance just as Oscar-worthy as Cage was; she manages to get us to believe that she, after going through so much pain and stress in the life of a back-alley prostitute, can fall in love with one of her highest-paying clients, a sorely suicidal alcoholic who just wants to talk to her. Other films would make slapstick comedy of this; "Leaving Las Vegas" simply lets it happen- the commentary comes naturally and nothing is forced. Tragic and uplifting, aggressive and peaceful, "Leaving Las Vegas" is a tour-de-force, a magnum opus, and one of the best films of the 90s.
January 9, 2014
If there ever was a disappointment. Could it be another case of "the book is better"?
August 18, 2007
Easily one of the ten best films of the '90's
Matty Stanfield
December 27, 2013
I found this film to be painfully unbelievable and am still at a loss as to the love it received from critics and entertainment awards.
fordmarkII
December 3, 2013
Elisabeth Shue is stunning here, and the film provokes certain feelings. Good soundtrack.
November 18, 2013
An alcoholic and a hooker move in together in Las Vegas. A crazy and over the top film full of wonderful performances. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
November 4, 2013
Romeo And Juliet mixed with vodka. I love the story, the idea. It's well presented and it works out quite good, this is a pretty original film about acceptance and loneliness. The weird, humorous moments and the deeper ones. I really like the characters and there are no boring parts here. The acting is good, the chemestry is very nice but the Oscar seem a bit undeserved though. How hard can it be to portray a proffesional drunk?

Pretty pretentious and some some behavior from the leads anoy me, things are not as they would be.
That's sad, since the film mostly seem believeable and goes without few questions

6.5 out og 10 bottles of rum.
September 15, 2013
A truly great work of art and my favorite love story of all time! It is about the power of love in the midst of tragedy. Nicolas Cage is mesmerizing as Ben, a drunk who goes to Vegas to drink himself to death. Once there, he meets high-class hooker Sara and the two fall in love. Ben moves in with her and continues to drink, Sara continues to hook, of course this creates complications in their relationship. Tragedy ensues, but in the midst of it, their love blazes strong!
This film does not hold back, it is graphic and shocking, Ben is a very tortured soul in this, but in spite of being very drunk through the whole movie, he is charismatic, coherent, and emotionally intense. Sara has no regrets about being a hooker, even though her life is in constant danger.
The film is shot like a theater play, in individual segments. The musical score is beautiful and very romantic, with lots of blues and jazz intermingled with a haunting
underscore. An amazing and very visceral film that does not make judgments, but allows you to come to your own conclusion about what it all means! A tour de force, I loved it!
Page 2 of 133
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