Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tough Viewing

A while back I posted a list of “shamefully unseen” films – a list that I’ve been working to shorten. One of the films from that list was Leaving Las Vegas (1995), a dark drama starring Nicolas Cage and Elizabeth Shue. The film’s story centers on a formerly successful writer whose life has taken a turn for the worse. He decides to travel to Las Vegas and, once there, drink himself to death. Sounds cheery, right?

I’ve always been curious to watch this film, mostly because it contains the role for which Nicolas Cage won his Academy Award. After viewing the film, I can say that both he and Elizabeth Shue delivered fine performances, earning every accolade they received. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Leaving Las Vegas is a difficult film to watch. You feel so sorry for the characters and what their lives have been reduced to that the experience of watching them becomes extremely uncomfortable at times. But that’s not meant as a negative on the film, necessarily. Films that challenge their viewers shouldn’t be neglected or shoved aside. Instead, they should be examined for what they are and what they attempt to accomplish. Sure, there are many other, more pleasant films to enjoy, but films like Leaving Las Vegas provide a singular experience. Perhaps that experience isn’t one that people would want to revisit, but I think that it’s worth some consideration. If nothing else, the performances demand to be seen. I certainly wouldn’t recommend the film to many people, but for those willing to take the journey, Leaving Las Vegas presents a challenge.

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