Thursday, 18 August 2011

On 18.8.11 by KieronMoore in , , ,    No comments
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Nicolas Cage can't act. Some of his films (Matchstick Men) have a sharp enough plot to make the manic overacting sort of watchable. Some (Face/Off, The Wicker Man, Season of the Witch - OK, maybe most of his films) are just plain awful. This video sums up his "acting" style nicely. It is for this reason that my family refuse to watch Nicolas Cage films and for this reason that I made Leaving Las Vegas into tonight's late night viewing. After all, I remember hearing somewhere that it's one of his least bad films, whatever that accounts for.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find out that Nicolas Cage can act. No, really.

Cage plays alcoholic screenwriter Ben, who, having been fired from his job, burns his possessions and his memories (perhaps the film's saddest element is the burning photograph of Ben with wife and son, never to be mentioned again) and heads to Vegas, intending to drink himself to death. There he meets prostitute Sera (Elisabeth Shue) and falls in love, in a tragically doomed manner befitting such a screw-up.

With its noticably low budget, Leaving Las Vegas hinges on the performances - so it's a good job that Cage, though he sometimes resorts to his typical ├╝ber-crazed mannerisms (such as an early dance around a supermarket (sorry, grocery store) buying a trolley-full of booze), actually, in a good number of scenes, acts. It came as a shock, but his portrayal of an everyday man brought to the edge of despair, not by a ridiculous plot to steal his body parts in order to frame him for the murder of the president, but by his own personal vices, rarely without a bottle in his hand, is totally believable and, honestly, excellent.

Though Cage is not alone in being surprisingly good - Shue also gives a remarkably nuanced performance as the prostitute looking for comfort, lost in an urban hell, deluding herself that she is happy. It's such a shame that her career has gone nowhere since. I mean, Piranha 3D, really? Someone give this woman a job!

With the most depressing sex scene in existence, Leaving Las Vegas is a bleak modern tragedy, lit by the ominous neon glow of Vegas, eating away at souls and at wallets. Yet it is utterly compelling in its relentless and unforgiving tale of dependency, on alcohol and, for Ben and Sera, on each other.

Nicolas Cage can act. Crikey.

Check back here for "Michael Bay can direct", "Katie Price can put a sentence together", and "David Cameron can associate with the common man".


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