Why Leaving Las Vegas is the Only True Depiction of Gambling in America
The year is 1996. Nicholas Cage wins the Oscar for Best Actor. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Nope, this is definitely real life – the Nicholas Cage, known as much for his bad movies, ridiculous love life, and strange purchases (dinosaur skull, anyone?), won the Best Actor Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas.
Underrated by many, this movie is a class act
The movie also had a slew of other nominations for the movie – Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based (as well as a nom for Best Motion Picture, Drama at the Golden Globes). So why is this? Well, we think it’s because Leaving Las Vegas is the Only True Depiction of Gambling in America – plus it’s Cage at his absolute finest. Let’s see why it’s so real, real.
Vegas is about booze
Ben (Cage) is a hopeless alcoholic who heads off to Vegas after completely screwing over his real life elsewhere, in the hopes of drinking himself to death without any judgment – because that’s what Vegas is, baby! No judgment here! Sleep off that hangover in a bush. Vegas may be known as the city of gambling, but it really is a city of drinking as much as it is playing the tables. There are scenes of Ben at the tables, drunk as a skunk, having a grand old time. Drinking certainly makes you a more animated gambler – even if you get worse at it the more drinks in that you are. It’s not often that casinos will protect their patrons from racking up huge debt and potentially ruining their lives.
Vegas is about prostitution
The love interest in this movie, Sera (as played by the dazzling Elizabeth Shue), is a prostitute on the streets of Las Vegas. Nevada is one of the only states in which prostitution is legal within America. So, having the oldest profession in the world as Sera’s profession here definitely makes sense. The number of gorgeous girls on the strip that are out there for a dollar rather than real love is certainly high.
Vegas is about gambling with your sanity
An alcoholic and a prostitute, what could go wrong? Sounds like the ideal relationship, right? (Inset eye roll here) While Vegas can be super fun, it’s also a bit of a la la land, where anything and everything can happen. So, while an alcoholic and a prostitute might sound like a really bad combo anywhere else, it is just another regular day out in Vegas; it’s par for the course. Cage is known for his craziness in real life, plus actually lives in Las Vegas – so does the movie mirror his real life? The answer to that question is probably a bit of yes. Even though he’s playing a character here, it’s a character that’s perhaps a bit of an exaggeration of himself in a lot of ways.
Vegas is less about gambling and more about excess
While gambling is what supposedly brings people to Vegas, it’s really about that la la land essence, that anything can happen, excessive type of place. You don’t need to set foot on the gaming floor to get outrageously drunk, visit strip clubs, rent super stretch Hummers, pick up hookers, go to wild night clubs, and rent hotels by the hour, even get other interesting things delivered straight to your door. Sure, the gambling and casinos part is central, but it sure doesn’t have to be – and many people only have a little bit of a flutter while they’re in town. Ben’s life is a story of huge excess, and while it seems that maybe Sera and Ben can ‘save’ each other, is this actually true?
The real gambling is with your life
This, this, is the reason why Leaving Las Vegas is the only true depiction of gambling in America. What are you gambling with? If you’re gambling with money at the casino, is it enough to lose to ruin your life? Are you a functioning alcoholic who is on the verge of losing your job, gambling with those sneaky lunchtime drinks? Are you gambling with your life with your job – as a prostitute on the street, or in a high-risk role like in the police force? Are you gambling with your relationship by cheating with someone else? Gambling is about risk – and the risk that people take on in their lives is unique to each individual. How much do you gamble?
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