MANY THANKS FOR Stephanie Mencimer’s debunking of Leaving Las Vegas (“Learning From Las Vegas,” 3/22). However, as tough and insightful as Mencimer’s comments were, her explorations into the male-fantasy symbolism of Nicolas Cage’s character indicate that she took Cage’s depiction of an alcoholic at face value. In fact, Cage’s jejune, bathetic performance is the most ridiculous thing about Leaving Las Vegas.
I’m a recovering alcoholic, which probably explains why I was the only one laughing during Leaving Las Vegas. The scene where Cage indiscriminately fills a shopping cart full of booze while dancing in the aisles of the liquor store is straight outta Melrose Place. If there is a boozehound who ever drank that way, I haven’t met him. It would be like a nicotine addict jamming a U-Haul to bursting with 50 different brands of cigarettes. Addicts go from fix to fix, and no drunk worth his weight in Absolut would stock up so recklessly unless Congress reinstituted Prohibition.
Moreover, in the final, deteriorative stage of alcoholism, the phase Cage’s character was obviously in—tolerance evaporates and the breakdown of the body on the cellular level makes it hard for drunks to handle large amounts of alcohol. Thus, smaller amounts of booze can make them violently ill. In reality, Cage would have been in the liquor store for a bottle, maybe two.
However, Leaving Las Vegas does get something right. Alcoholics, like other addicts, tend to be somewhat boring in their slow march towards death. Their outbursts and high dramas, the product of a sick brain, take on a numbing predictability. In its aimless plot and sleepy imagery, Leaving Las Vegas conveys this. Unfortunately, this lack of direction is now being celebrated as visionary because of the solipsistic, Beautiful Loser ethos that so many hack artists and Hollywood types find irresistible.CP