"Leaving Las Vegas" Is Released

Leaving Las Vegas is a 1995 romantic drama film about a relationship between a suicidal alcoholic and a prostitute from Las Vegas, starring Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue.

Ben Sanderson is a late-stage alcoholic who has hit rock bottom. Trashing all personal and professional ties to his L.A. existence, he sets off for the lights of Vegas on a mission: to drink himself to death. There he meets Sera, a beautiful, seen-it-all hooker. From the moment Ben and Sera connect, they form a unique bond based upon unconditional acceptance and mutual respect that will change each of them forever. The film was directed and written by Mike Figgis, based on a semi-autobiographical novel by John O'Brien. Two weeks after the production of the film had started, O'Brien committed suicide. A halt of the project was considered, but work on the film was continued as a memorial of sorts.

Ben Sanderson, played devastatingly by Nicolas Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas," is something other than the usual movie drunk. Nothing about him offers golden opportunities to the good Samaritan. Already in the terminal stages of alcoholism as the film begins, Ben seems to sense his fate and want to face it in his own way, with crazy bravado and a whiff of desperate romance. This small, searing film watches transfixingly as Ben plays out his final hand. As directed by Mike Figgis, who makes a long overdue return to the sultry intensity of his "Internal Affairs" and "Stormy Monday," "Leaving Las Vegas" has the daring to suspend judgment about Ben's downward spiral. This film simply works as a character study, pitilessly well observed and intimately familiar with its terrain. — Janet Maslin, The New York Times