the fresh films reviews

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Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Directed by:
Mike Figgis


Adj Las Vegas

111 minutes

Produced by:
Lila Cazs
Annie Stewart
Written by (based on the novel by John O'Brien):
Mike Figgis

Cast includes:

Ben Sanderson Nicolas Cage
Sera Elisabeth Shue
Yuri Butsov Julian Sands
Peter Richard Lewis -
Marc Nussbaum Steven Weber -
Debbie Emily Procter -
Terri Valeria Golino -
Mr. Simpson Thomas Kopache -
Mrs. Van Houten Laurie Metcalf -
Conventioner R. Lee Ermey -
Hooker at Bar Mariska Hargitay -
Bartender #3 in Biker Bar Julian Lennon -
Bank Teller Carey Lowell -
Mobster Ed Lauter -
Bartender #2 Danny Huston -
Biker Girl Shawnee Smith -
Man at Mall Bob Rafelson -
Cynical Cabbie Xander Berkeley -



In the mid-1990s, a low-budget independent movie about alcoholism shot on 16 mm film could make its way to a wide cinematic release, gross $50 million domestically and end up with Academy Award nominations in all the big categories. Mike Figgis' Leaving Las Vegas is a completely unbiased, no-frills look at dependency merged with a timeless and essentially cliched doomed love story. Basing his script on the 1990 novel of the same name by John O'Brien, who incidentally committed suicide just before the film went into production, Figgis assembled a fine cast of essentially unpaid actors and went to Las Vegas to shoot much of his movie without permits a choice which gives the picture an undeniable authenticity. Nicolas Cage plays Ben Sanderson, a Hollywood screenwriter who loses his wife, child, and career, and then burns and sells whatever he has left before setting out for Las Vegas in order to drink himself to death. When he meets the disheartened prostitute Sera (Elisabeth Shue), his plan doesn't change, it's just somewhat put off. Leaving Las Vegas makes alcoholism utterly unglamorous, and still you're drawn to the nihilism of it all. There's a certain dissidence and valour in the bewitching downward spiral Ben willingly starts sliding down. And Figgis' moody 16 mm camerawork combined with Sting's beautiful jazz standards make the experience truly atmospheric and not at all as depressing as you might think. Cage and Shue both give career best performances, respectively winning and being nominated for each their Academy Award.

Re-reviewed: Copyright 19.10.2023 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright 01.09.1996 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang