Nicolas Cage was once a good actor. Another reason to drink.
Nicolas Cage was once a good actor. Another reason to drink.

If you don't find it depressing to watch a movie that will make it impossible for you to drink on the day of the year when you need it most, then just leave it to the sheer slow-motion suicide, sadistic pimping, frat-guy gang rape, and near-necrophilia of Leaving Las Vegas to bring you down.

Nicolas Cage is brilliant—which is another reason to be depressed: What happened there?—and plays a screenwriter named Ben who's lost everything to drink, so he goes to Las Vegas to drink some more. Specifically, to drink himself to death, literally. The movie is this process happening.

He meets Sera, Elisabeth Shue (also giving a great performance—too bad you'll never be able to watch it again, because you'll be so traumatized by this first time). She's a smart, abused prostitute, and they begin a sort-of relationship in which their first rule is not to judge each other.

Then things get bad. So, so bad. There is no "good" gang rape scene ever, if you ask me. Yet this is worse than most. If you feel you are suffering sufficiently already, I will forgive your fast-forwarding through it.

And then after things are already that bad, they end worse, in a gross, floppy, pathetic tangle of sad, sad sex and death, oh my god.

What makes things even more fun is that Leaving Las Vegas is basically a documentary about the horrible exploitative soul of that glittery gambling city. In 2011, on a personal visit to people who lived barely two miles from the Strip, I took a walk through the neighborhood and ran into entire blocks where every single house had been foreclosed on and stripped of everything including the wiring inside the walls. This is how you feel after watching Leaving Las Vegas. And you cannot drink.


Read the full feature How to Have the Worst Thanksgiving Ever (On Purpose)