Where smoking and resultant cancer seems to be a no go zone, the silver screen has been littered with alcoholics from humorous parodies to serious issue. In what at first seems like a harrowingly bleak view of the world Leaving Las Vegas follows Ben Sanderson (Nicholas Cage) on his mission to drink himself to death in Las Vegas. Upon reaching Vegas he plumbs the depths of humanity only to find a ray of hope in prostitute Sera (Elizabeth Shue) which ultimately comes too late. This incredibly moving film is notable not only for the story, based upon writer John O’Brien’s own experiences with alcoholism and depression (he committed suicide before the film was completed), but also the standout performances of the cast. Nicholas Cage is more often seen sporting dodgy wigs and chewing up the scenery these days, whereas in 1995 he seemed to at least take his craft seriously. The result was a Best Actor award at the Oscars. It must also be noted that Elizabeth Shue was also nominated for Best Actress and Mike Figgis for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. So often we see actors failing miserably when trying to play drunk and for a film where Cage’s character spends 99% of the film drunk he is astoundingly believable. Apparently Cage actually got himself drunk several times and filmed them, so he could recreate it on set.
One to watch: Leaving Las Vegas
Further viewing: The Lost Weekend; Days of Wine and Roses; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; 28 days; When a Man Loves a Woman; Man on Fire, Rio Bravo; A Star is Born, Barfly.