Leaving Las Vegas This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I recently saw a film that should be praised by anyone and everyone. I am, of course, speaking of the beautifully filmed, dark and comical "Leaving Las Vegas." Mike Figgis' film is a brilliant comic tragedy. I cannot tell you when I have been so moved by a motion picture. My "Best Picture" vote was for this, even though the Academies overlooked it (fools that they were).

Ben Sanderson (Nicholas Cage) is a Hollywood agent of sorts dealing with ICM and CAA. As the film begins, he is fired, given a more than satisfactory check, and heads for the liquor store. I watched, nervously, as he filled shopping carts with booze. He then heads to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. The way he chugs the bottle of vodka, I'm surprised he didn't die within the first half hour.

Sera (Elisabeth Shue) is a gorgeous prostitute with a criminal pimp (Julian Sands), who is on the run and scars her body when she's been "bad," or is not bringing in the dough. She loves him C until Ben comes along. Pitying him, she invites Ben to live with her. He, of course, agrees, on one condition: she never asks him to stop drinking. This is the first point that touched me the most. Ben asks, "Don't you think you'd get tired of living with a drunk?" She stares at him, as if she's going to cry and softly says, "I want it this way." It was at this point that I realized a very important aspect of this film: Sera is Ben's angel, although he sometimes wonders if she is a hallucination.

What is miraculous about the film are the performances by Cage and Shue, exemplary gut-wrenching displays of great craftsmanship and human emotion. Cage won the Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for just uttering the words, "I don't know how you can love me like this." Shue exhibits a talent never suspected in "The Karate Kid," and "Adventures in Babysitting."

Shot in 16mm film and transferred to the normal 33mm, the images are extremely beautiful. There are brilliant pink and blue skies that combat with the rest of Vegas. Adding an element of frenzy is Figgis' musical compositions that counterpoint the actions.

But best of all is the ending of Figgis' bawdy little opera. Absurd, insolent, riotous, yet crushing, "Leaving Las Vegas" has a terrific finale, one that is as honest and discerning as the rest of this outstanding film


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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