Presenting debauchery and distress apropos of booze and sex, Leaving Las Vegas (1995) is Mike Figgis‘s candid but pretentious story of short-term love between a drunk (Nicolas Cage) and a hooker (Elizabeth Shue). Cage no longer has a wife or a job and wants to drink himself to death in the Las Vegas to which he travels. Shue gets knocked about by her pimp who eventually tells her to get lost before he is blown away by mobsters. Oddly, Shue remarks to Cage that she is happy; I fail to see how she could be. But if she is, it doesn’t last: By the picture’s end, she becomes as much of a veritable loser as Cage.
Another detail I don’t understand is why someone as beautiful as Shue has to settle for being a prostitute. How did she get into this profession? Couldn’t she have become a model or a dancer or an actress? Or was she too lazy?
LLV‘s pretentiousness lies in its artiness. The use of slow motion is matched in frequency only by the use of cinematic snippets fading to black. The soundtrack is egregiously fancy, although the often mellow musical score, written by Figgis himself, is pleasant. As for the acting, Cage is not exactly uninteresting, but neither does he have sufficient personality for an important leading role like this. Hence he has to resort to being somewhat mannered. Shue, on the other hand, is as haughty, sensitive, friendly-flirty, and pathetic as Sera the hooker was meant to be. She is not that well developed a character, but this is screenwriter Figgis’s fault; what Figgis required Shue provided. It’s just about the only asset in this critically acclaimed failure of a film.