Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

The title sounds like an alternate Elvis song and, sure enough, the King 
appears in a scene with Nicholas Cage, the actor who once flew with a 
planeload of Elvises (Elvii?) in HONEYMOON IN VEGAS, and who is *still* 
airborne as an ex-screenwriter determined to drink himself to death in- 
between casino visits.  His accomplice is Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a 
hooker who is attracted to him despite his alcohol-induced impotence.  
They make a perfect couple-- he doesn't mind her day job and she accepts 
his suicide solution-- and are soon enmeshed inside a destructive co-
dependency worthy of a dozen Oprahs.  (Or, at least, three WAITING TO 

Easily the best anti-drinking film in ages, LEAVING LAS VEGAS is nowhere 
near as dour as the subject matter suggests.  There's plenty of humor, 
notably in Cage's deceptively unrestrained performance.  He's excited 
about dying and it shows.  A gaggle of familiar faces-- from Richard 
Lewis to Lou Rawls-- also helps to take the edge away.  Another plus is 
former KARATE KID costar Elisabeth Shue, who quickly outclasses Sharon 
Stone's recent turn as a streetwalker.  (And who says that there are no 
good roles for women?)

The story has a few problems-- such as the unnecessary footage of Shue 
speaking to the camera.  Who is she speaking to?-- but the raw power 
behind the performances is a boost that pushes LEAVING LAS VEGAS beyond 
the realm of "recommended viewing" and into that superlative subset of 
"award-winning" and "year's best."  And, of course, it`s the perfect 
third act of the perfectly unintentional trilogy started by Paul 
Verhoven and Martin Scorsese.  Viva Las Vegas.  (Rated "R"/112 min.)

Grade: A-

Originally posted to triangle.movies

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