Mike Figgis directs Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue and Julian Sands in this dark romance between a terminal alcoholic and a street worker looking for love.
When you watch Chicken Run you get an unfortunate hankering for a three piece meal. When you watch Leaving Las Vegas you wanna have a drink. Not downing vodka like it is water… Does anyone knock back spirits like this outside of the movies? What a movie. You get Vegas looking bright and sleazy. The editing is experimental and kaleidoscopic. Figgis’ camera finds everyday beauty whether lit by the dazzle dazzle of the strip, the clean lustre of a mall food court or twilight sun dappling droplets of bourbon on breasts. You get Elisabeth Shue looking delectable, yet channeling a backstory of abuse, exploitation, codependency and low self esteem convincingly. You get Cage’s most focussed wildly cool, erratic buffoonery. The booze is the fuel for his eccentric swings and volcano of tics here. He’s morose in a well of self pity, then he’s partying down a supermarket aisle stocking up on his poison, then he’s being a horny quote machine, far above self respect to care what flirtatious obscenities are wafting from his stinky mouth. “Like the kling klang king of the rim ram room.” Who knows what is flowing through his unrestrained brain? It is a performance like jazz with a bazooka with a bottle in both hands. There’s no doubt why Shue’s Sera falls in love with such a self imploding car wreck of a human. We do. There’s no doubt why she wants to stop him slowly rotting his body. We do. There’s no doubt in the quiet final moments our hearts have shifted from the bad choices and hurtful rejections to an unlikely, bleak transaction of tenderness that somehow closes the door on two troubled lives. For a little while they looked like they might save each other. Oscars all round. For once they got Best Actor bang the fuck on!
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