Leaving Las Vegas (Blu-ray)
Somehow I’ve gone fifteen years never having seen LEAVING LAS VEGAS. It’s one of those films that everyone says is so spectacular, but that’s it. You also hear about how that was one of the last amazing performances that Nicolas Cage ever gave. The man even won an Oscar for the role. So I figure it was about time that I visit this movie and find out if it’s as great as everyone says it is.
Let me start off by saying, I’m really glad I watched this, but I will probably never watch it again. It’s one of those movies like RUSH or REQUIEM FOR A DREAM or CLOSER—it completely and utterly destroys my soul. Now I like a good story about a weird guy and a prostitute finding love. TRUE ROMANCE was excellent. But this film does not leave you with a hopeful feeling.
Vegas is the perfect setting for two characters who are as desperate and vulnerable as Ben (Cage) and Sera (Elisabeth Shue) are. As soon as we meet Ben, it’s obvious that rock bottom has already hit, he’s just not aware of it. To boot, he’s also a self-loathing failed writer– typical. Ben has all the pessimism and depression of Hemingway sans the talent. When he nearly crashes his car into the beautiful Sera, all he wants is to spend some time with her. From the very beginning, it’s obvious that Sera is not a typical hooker. There’s something soft and loving about her. In fact, she’s very charming and could easily be the sassy girl next door.
The only thing about Sera is that she has this odd pull to her pimp, Yuri (Julian Sands). Honestly, the guy really creeps me out. So I can see how it would the better choice would be to choose the drunken writer, there’s something sort of romantic in that. Two people grasping at the edge of hope, wondering if they’re like together will offer them something more. The only thing different about their relationship is that he can never ask her to stop hooking and she can never ask him to stop drinking. This is only a bottom layer on the cake of that is obvious destruction. The void that the two thought they had in their hearts was really already filled, but the delusion and shiny promise of Vegas only magnifies the denial.
While Nicolas Cage does completely deserve his Oscar, it’s sad that Shue did not receive one as well. She did have some stiff competition in 1996 though: Susan Sarandon for DEAD MAN WALKING, Sharon Stone for CASINO, Meryl Streep for THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY and EMMA THOMPSON for SENSE AND SENSABILITY. This was a great year for women in leading roles. Sarandon may have taken that golden man home, but Shue’s performance should never be forgotten.
LEAVING LAS VEGAS will sweep you up and knock you down leaving you satisfied from the ride. It is thanks to director Mike Figgis that the after effect isn’t too bitter for you to swallow. There are moments between Ben and Sera that can touch anyone’s heart and their passion for one another is so outstanding that it’s forgivable. Even if you aren’t one to watch films about self-destructive individuals, this is a film that demands you to sit through a single viewing. You won’t be disappointed.
Video: The technical aspects on this Blu-ray were absolutely disappointing. Watching it doesn’t feel any different than it would have on VHS back in 1995. It’s almost as if no one ever bothered to make a decent transfer. (1.85:1 Widescreen).
Audio: The audio felt off and the only satisfaction you receive is a decent music soundtrack. I was hoping that at least the sound would save the day, but it doesn’t. Someone should let Fox know that their people aren’t doing their jobs. (5.1 DTS-HD).