Ben is a divorced screenwriter, recently fired, who has given up on life altogether. A chronic alcoholic, he has decided to take what money he has left and go to Vegas where he plans on drinking himself into an oblivion.
Along the way he meets a Vegas hooker named Sera (Elizabeth Shoe) who takes pity on him, and he on her, and they begin a romance so emotionally raw and messed up that it makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like a nursery rhyme.
Nicholas Cage has starred in a ton of pointless, lousy movies. This is not one of them. This is far from a feel good movie, but it’s a film that enriched me as a human being.
The subject matter is as bleak, pathetic, and hopeless as it gets, but the actors inside these characters (or vice versa) are so soulful and full of life that you break your heart rooting them on, even as they continue down “desolation row” to quote a little Dylan.
Those who say Cage cannot act have either never seen this movie, or are willingly hypocritical. He is so transformative and utterly convincing here as a man in the final death throes of alcoholism.
This movie does a wonderful job at taking what could be a very cliché setting, and through strong performances and good writing turn it into a heart wrenchingly realistic, soul crushingly depressing, movie that hovers just far enough from the edge of bleakness (until the final act) to keep from becoming too painful to watch.
Roger Ebert, a who wrote about his own struggles with alcoholism said in the opening lines of his review “”Leaving Las Vegas” (1995) is not a love story, although it feels like one, but a story about two desperate people using love as a form of prayer and a last resort against their pain.”
Those who haven’t seen it may think it too depressing to consider watching. I counter by saying I’d rather spend my time watching a great movie, that happens to be depressing, on purpose, than a lousy one, that accomplishes the same feat by accident.
Leaving Las Vegas gets a five out of five: EXCELLENT.