Leaving Las Vegas [1995]

One of the most critically acclaimed films of 1995, this wrenchingly sad but extraordinarily moving drama provides an authentic, superbly acted portrait of two people whose lives intersect just as they've reached their lowest depths of despair. Ben (Nicolas Cage, in an Oscar-winning performance) is a former movie executive who's lost his wife and family in a sea of alcoholic self-destruction. He's come to Las Vegas literally to drink himself to death, and that's when he meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a prostitute who falls in love with him--and he with her--despite their mutual dead-end existence. They accept each other as they are, with no attempts by one to change the other, and this unconditional love turns Leaving Las Vegas into a somber yet quietly beautiful love story. Earning Oscar nominations for Best Director (Mike Figgis), Best Adapted Screenplay (Figgis, from John O'Brien's novel) and Best Actress (Shue), the film may strike some as relentlessly bleak and glacially paced, but attentive viewers will readily discover the richness of these tragic characters and the exceptional performances that bring them to life. (In a sad echo of his own fiction, novelist John O'Brien committed suicide while this film was in production.) The DVD features uncut, unrated footage that was not included in the film's theatrical release. --Jeff Shannon

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