Alcoholic screenwriter Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage) arrives in Las Vegas, determined to drink himself to death, but he develops a fragile bond with a prostitute (Elisabeth Shue). The film that gave Cage an Oscar turns into a perfect tool for his style, pouring madness, deep anxiety, hedonism and pity into his portrait of a suicidal writer. Shue matches him as a woman who sees sort of a kindred spirit in him; perhaps she can save him, even if that would break the deal they make. The set-up may be a little too clichéd but it’s hard not to become involved in this journey of despair, visually and thematically dark, with songs performed by Sting that lend the film a bittersweet touch.
1995-U.S. 111 min. Color. Produced by Lila Cazès, Annie Stewart. Direction, Screenplay, Music: Mike Figgis. Novel: John O’Brien. Cast: Nicolas Cage (Ben Sanderson), Elisabeth Shue (Sera), Julian Sands (Yuri Butsov), Richard Lewis, Steven Weber, Valeria Golino… R. Lee Ermey, Mariska Hargitay, Laurie Metcalf, Julian Lennon.
Trivia: O’Brien committed suicide shortly after the movie went into production.
Oscar: Best Actor (Cage). Golden Globe: Best Actor (Cage).
Last word: “I like it when films become an amalgam of the strength of the personalities – in this case Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue – who so utterly change the characters without losing who those characters were in the script. I could not conceive of anyone but those two actors doing those roles, which is not true of all films I’ve done. Obviously Nic is a humorous actor. But he’s deeply serious. The writing was funny, but it takes someone like Nicolas to carry it off, because it can become buried and submerged in the darker stuff. But what was always there was this honesty and matter-of-factness about the alcoholism, in the sense that the decision has been made, you’re not witnessing the struggle.” (Figgis, Bomb Magazine)