Leaving Las Vegas

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Alcoholism is a hard thing to watch. More than any other vices, alcoholics are extremely aware of what they are doing to themselves and to their bodies and yet unable to do anything about it. Although I have never had anyone near me become consumed by it, I am aware of other people’s stories to be aware of just how much damage it can cause. From comedians baring their struggles on WTF to personal friends whose family members are cut off from the rest of the family because of their actions, there are plenty of examples of how bad it can become. These stories and examples are somewhat pale in comparison to this film.

Leaving Las Vegas is a hard film to watch. Nicholas Cage plays a drunk who has lost everything. His life, his family and his job all go down the drain every time he slams a pint of whiskey. In order to completely free himself from the pain that alcohol has caused him, he decides that he is going to go to Las Vegas and drink himself to death. In contrast Elizabeth Shue goes to Las Vegas to escape her pimp and find a more regular source of income. She thinks that Las Vegas will give her the freedom she needs. Of course she is mistaken in her ideals and becomes even more lonely than she was before. She meets Nicholas Cage one night and they hit it off. She takes him into her house and cares for him. At first you think this is going to be the standard story line of woman saving a man from himself, but that ends up not being true. What Nicholas Cage sets out to do at the beginning is what Nicholas Cage ends up doing. There is no romantic twinge to the ravages he inflicts on his body. At one point in the film, Elizabeth Shue takes him to a hotel in the middle of the desert. She seduces him by the pool, but it is instantly ruined the moment he gets up and slams into a glass table. After she escorts him back to their room, she comes back to the table to clean it up. There she is confronted by the hotel manager who tells her to take her mess of a boyfriend out of the hotel as soon as possible. It is the most uncomfortable scene in the whole film. Both Elizabeth and Nicholas continually get treated like dirt because of their afflictions. At the same time you can’t really blame the straight people. They have their life together, and they don’t have an infinite supply of pity.

Both Nicholas Cage and Elizabeth Shue put in hammy but persuasive performances. Cage over acts in the only way he knows how. But every outburst, every dramatic line reading fits his character perfectly. Elizabeth can be a little bit whiney, but she is mostly very believable in her emotions. They combine together to form a sweet and beautiful relationship. If only it could have lasted…

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