An alcoholic screenwriter goes to Las Vegas to drink himself to death
and ends up forming a strong friendship with a lonely prostitute.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Written and Directed by Mike Figgis
Starring Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands
Based on the novel by John O'Brien
Oscar Wins - Best Actor (Nicolas Cage)
Oscar Nominations - Best Actress (Elisabeth Shue),
Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay
Leaving Las Vegas is the film that won Nicolas Cage his long-forgotten Oscar, and is one of the best depictions of alcoholism and depression ever shown on camera. There's a nondescript unpleasantness about each scene, stemming from Ben Sanderson's (Cage) complete lack of care for himself. He's drinking himself to death, and not even Sera (Shue), the prostitute who's fallen in love with him, can divert him from his very specific path. And what set him off? We don't know. Losing his wife? Losing his job? Or maybe he's always been a bomb waiting for a lit fuse to set him off.
Ben is a screenwriter who has become a pariah at work thanks to his excessive drinking. We open with a scene featuring Richard Lewis and Steven Weber, who tell Ben it would be best if he didn't contact them again. From there, Ben is fired and decides to throw out his possessions and go to Vegas to kill himself with an endless drinking binge. On his first night, he buys a hooker named Sera, and ends up forming a strong attachment to her. Sera sees Ben as someone real in the phoniness of Vegas, and the two become inseparable. But along the way, Ben's drinking continues and Sera starts to lose that loving feeling. It's a downer from start to finish.
While I'm glad that Cage won Oscar gold for his work in this film, I think he deserved it more for Adaptation. Elisabeth Shue, I believe, was passed over and should've won for her super depressing turn as Sera. Leaving Las Vegas is one of those dark films you only watch one time, and I'm glad I finally watched it.