After watching Honeymoon in Vegas last night, I had a dream that I myself was Nicolas Cage, and I was wearing a kilt and brazenly showing off my muscular calves to a troop of admiring schoolgirls. Of course, Cage doesn’t wear a kilt in Honeymoon in Vegas – he wears an Elvis costume, completing the Elvis diptych begun in 1990’s Wild at Heart. It’s the Elvis costume, coming only in the last 20 minutes of the film that puts Honeymoon in Vegas in the passion portion of the venn diagram, and Cage seems to be having a ball when he gets to improbably win back the woman of his dreams through a sky-diving Elvis extravaganza.
Cage plays Jack Singer, a man who is emasculated in the first five minutes of the film when his mother, lying on her deathbed, makes him promise that he will never get married because ‘No girl could ever love you like I did!’ . In Peter Jackson’s brilliant film Braindead, hero Lionel’s mother utters a very similar sentence to him; the difference being that she says it at the end of the film, rather than the beginning, and that Lionel’s mother is a 15 foot tall reconstituted zombie, opening the cavernous maw of her womb to slide her rebellious son back in once and for all.
Jack Singer foolishly promises the coddling harridan that he will never marry, and so embarks on a fearsome battle against the frenzied ticking of his girlfriend Betsy’s biological clock.* When a casino sleazeball resembling an evil Gene Wilder falls in lust with Betsy, Singer’s emasculation grows tenfold, and his subsumed aggression is released in staccato hand gestures and erratic bouts of shouting. There are traces of Vampire’s Kiss in Cage’s performance – in a scene in which Betsy reveals that she is going for a weekend in Hawaii with the sleazeball, Cage pleads, prowls and menaces to Sarah Jessica Parker’s admirable unconcern.
The slightly unhinged performance is given a virility by Cage’s abundant body hair, generously smothering his chest and arms in unusual profusion. Not in this film are the burnished bronze expanses of The Boy in Blue and Ghostrider, here Cage is hairy as a modest bear. At times, he seems to put on a New York accent to fit in with his humorous gambling cronies, butt of many a fat joke throughout the film’s 90 minutes. It’s hardly consistent, but perhaps helps to lend Jack Singer’s claim that ‘I’m an everyman!’ some kind of credence. In any case, the New York accent disappears entirely when he puts on the Elvis suit, flexes his hip and delivers his lines in the drawl familiar from Wild at Heart. It’s in the Elvis costume that Cage seems to come alive, he’s magnetic, even sexy – perhaps the more so in contrast to his previous costumes in the film, all patterned shirts and long beige cardigans that make him look like a Chris Ware caricature of Nicolas Cage .
The ending is a top-class crazy random happenstance, but kind of delightful anyway. Cage somehow makes it work; who wouldn’t (you find yourself thinking) forgive their selfish, gambling-addicted, commitment phobic boyfriend if he laconically fell out of a plane, gazing soulfully up at you from under his flirty Elvis eyebrows?
And who wouldn’t (you begin to ponder) forgive Nicolas Cage his odd blunder when he sky-dived over Vegas, dressed as Elvis Presley, lit down on a landing pad like an illuminated celestial moth and gazed into your bemused yet delighted eyes, languidly inclining his head as if to say: ‘I’m all yours audience, all yours’.
* All sexism in the sentence is irony accredited.