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"CITY OF ANGELS"
(1998) (Nicolas Cage, Meg Ryan) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Minor Moderate Mild Minor Minor
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None Minor None Mild
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Minor Mild Mild Mild


QUICK TAKE:
Romantic Drama: An angel falls in love with a human and contemplates giving up his heavenly status so that he can experience life as only a human being can.
PLOT:
Seth (NICOLAS CAGE) is a restless angel on duty in Los Angeles. Assigned to comfort the troubled or accompany the recently deceased to Heaven, Seth and his fellow angel, Cassiel (ANDRE BRAUGHER), contemplate what it must be like to be human. Unable to experience touch, taste, or any other human sense, Seth longs for a chance to do just that. The opportunity arises when he meets Dr. Maggie Smith (MEG RYAN), a cardiac surgeon who has just lost a patient.

Shaken to her very core, Maggie begins to question both her abilities and whom or what she battles with over her patients' lives. At that moment, Seth -- who, like the rest of the angels is normally invisible -- decides to let himself be seen, but only by Maggie. As he comforts Maggie, he begins to fall in love with her and soon the feeling becomes mutual. He must then decide whether to remain an angle, or lose his eternal status and become a mortal human. As he gets help and advice from Nathaniel Messinger (DENNIS FRANZ), one of Maggie's patients and a person with firsthand knowledge of Seth's plight, Seth must finally make his irrevocable decision.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they're fans of Cage, Ryan, or romantic dramas, they might, but don't expect many preteens to want to see this.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For sexuality including language, and some nudity.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • NICOLAS CAGE plays an angel who longs to know what's it's like to be human and experience their physical senses. He is then faced with the decision of remaining an angle, or giving all of that up to become human and be with the woman he loves. He does have sex with Maggie.
  • MEG RYAN plays a cardiac surgeon ruled by her head and not her heart. When she's unable to save a patient, however, her confidence in herself is shaken. Although she has an occasional sleep over boyfriend (another surgeon), she eventually begins to fall for Seth, with whom she later has sex.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
    Literally interpreting the translation of Los Angeles, "City Of Angels" is one of those films that you'll either love or hate -- and a great deal of that might just depend on what kind of hormones you've got running through your body. Not to sexually stereotype moviegoers, but it's pretty much a standard fact that women like love stories while men prefer action flicks. Of course, not everyone falls into those distinctions, and many of both genders like both types of films. For the most part, though, women have a thing for love stories -- especially ones where the man changes for the woman -- and ladies, you're probably going to love this one.

    You may even be able to get the man in your life to accompany you to the theater if you mention that one of today's big action stars -- Nicolas Cage ("The Rock," "Con Air," and "Face/Off") -- is one of the lead actors. Perhaps you shouldn't mention, however, that he was also in "Moonstruck" or "Peggy Sue Got Married," for those films are more in tune with what happens in this picture. Giving his testosterone-laced career a rest, Cage returns to the romantic drama and excels in his performance as the love lorn angel who will do anything to be with his dream woman, played by Meg Ryan.

    Essentially a remake of Wim Wenders' 1988 film, "Wings of Desire," this picture pretty much follows the same plot. A pair of angels, capable of "hearing" human thoughts and always present to console the nervous and the dying, wonder what it's really like to be human. After one of the falls in love with a human, he decides to hang up his nonexistent wings so to speak, and become one of the fragile, emotionally complex, and definitely mortal beings he's observed but never really known.

    These aren't your white-robed, sit on a cloud with a harp while sunning your wings types of angels, though. They're more your ordinary Joe's and Jane's, all rather solemn and wearing long, dark overcoats. They've traded in those clouds for sitting on top of billboards, buildings, and yes, even the famous Hollywood sign. Shot by Academy Award winning cinematographer John Seale ("The English Patient") the images are wonderfully presented as we see angels everywhere throughout L.A. Accompanied by fellow Oscar winner Gabriel Yared's (also from "The English Patient") haunting and often touching score, the overall results are quite impressive, especially early in the film as we see the angels comforting various people in distress.

    Filmed in something akin to "fantasy-vision" (if there were such a thing), the filmmakers also have to be commended for making Los Angeles look like an angelic city. Despite all of the glamour and glitz, smog and crime, and massive urban sprawl, this film shows that love can sprout there and transcend any boundaries that may be in the way.

    Many impressive moments abound, such as when Maggie -- despondent over the feelings of death lingering all about her -- goes and sits in a hospital nursery to be surrounded by new life and, more importantly, the concept of hope for the future. The scene is nicely underplayed, as is most of the rest of the movie, all of which gives the film anything but the standard "Hollywood" feel.

    Instead of presenting Heaven and angels in a nuts and bolts fashion -- such as seen in the brilliant "Defending Your Life" -- the film's focus is on mood and emotion. We never really know much about the rules and regulations pertaining to Seth, but this near constant dreamlike state soothes the audience to the point where we don't want or need to be asking those pesky "but what about" questions.

    That fantasy approach also gives director Brad Silberling ("Casper") and screenwriter Dana Stevens ("Blink") the ability to allow certain elements to pass by without the standard critical scrutiny. For instance, when Seth first experiences the human senses, one would imagine he'd be overwhelmed and nearly drowned from sensory overload -- something akin to a horrible panic attack or nervous breakdown. While he has a few reactions (mainly joy at finally experiencing what he's observed for eons), Silberling and Stevens have opted not to take the obvious comedic route (although the possibilities there are immense). Likewise, they allow Maggie to fall under Seth's "spell" that prevents her -- and ultimately the audience -- from wondering why she isn't more curious about this mysterious man who's suddenly appeared in her life.

    Of course it doesn't hurt that ol' Saint Nick (no, a different one) inhabits that character. As aptly demonstrated in his previous films, Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage (for "Leaving Las Vegas") has an incredibly expressive and soulful face. That rare gift -- that most performers would die for -- allows him to easily, and more importantly, to believably express his emotions with a "simple" look. One feels the comfort his character exudes, and the moments where he consoles the troubled, the sick, and/or the recently deceased are truly touching and heartfelt. It's a nice contrast to, and break from, the characters he's played in his recent pictures.

    Meg Ryan ("When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless In Seattle") also delivers a great performance portraying the surgeon whose life is run by her head and not her heart (while symbolically she operates on others' hearts to make them better). Yet when she loses a patient despite her mighty efforts, one feels her emotional pain. While some may question Ryan in this role (based on the previously charming or "wacky" characters she's inhabited in other films), one only has to remember her work in "Courage Under Fire" where she clearly demonstrated her ability to play serious and complicated characters.

    Supporting performances are also outstanding. Dennis Franz ("Die Hard 2," TV's "N.Y.P.D. Blue") plays a heart patient with a special understanding of Seth's plight, and delivers a compassionate and welcome change from the gruff, edgy characters he so often plays (although we do get the "treat" of seeing his bare butt once again). Just as good is Andre Braugher's take as Seth's angelic partner. I've always enjoyed his work (his fabulous role in "Glory" and his continued work on TV's "Homicide") and the only downside to his calming performance is that he's underused. Of course if that's the worst criticism one can generate, then it'd be safe to say he's doing quite well.

    Most women will undoubtably love this touching, wonderful film. Conversely, many men will probably say that they didn't like it, although deep down somewhere inside them it will have had some effect. Featuring great performances, aptly handled technical merits and a decidedly non- Hollywood feel, "City Of Angels" is definitely worth seeing. We give it an 8 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a quick look at the film's content. Profanity nears the "moderate" range with 8 "s" words and just a few others. One sexual scene does occur, but it's more sensual than explicit (seen just from the shoulders up), although it does contain just a bit of "racy" dialogue. For the squeamish, there are a few scenes depicting surgical procedures that, while bloody, are quite brief. Regarding thematic elements, religious purists might take slight offense at the film's portrayal of angels, although nothing is purposefully done to be disrespectful. Finally, there's the whole concept of death and dying that's approached in several scenes. Beyond that, most of the rest of the film is quite tame. Even so, you still might want to look through the listings to make sure it's appropriate for you or your family.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Maggie holds a beer while taking a bath.
  • Someone hands Seth a beer at Messinger's welcome home party.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • We see brief glimpses of surgical operations that are somewhat bloody. Some of that includes a quick shot from the side with rib spreaders being put onto/into a chest, a view of a heart in a chest cavity, and another where a scalpel cuts through some skin and blood runs out (but again, it's very brief).
  • We hear, but do not see, Maggie throwing up into a toilet.
  • Seth, who isn't human and can't feel pain, accidently cuts clear through his finger with a knife (that immediately "heals" and isn't bloody). Maggie then takes a knife and purposefully cuts through his hand, but again he's not hurt and there's no pain or blood.
  • Seth's hand is bloody and he has few bloody nicks and scrapes on his head. Later, his nose is a little bloody after a guy punches him.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Some viewers with extremely strong religious convictions might take slight offense at the film's portrayal of angels, but none of it's done to be disrespectful.
  • A man robs a convenience store at gunpoint.
  • Messinger comments about Maggie to Seth, "She's a little flat chested, but hey, all you need is a handful.
  • A thug punches Seth and his buddies grab him and try to rob him, but he has nothing to steal.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • A mother must deal with her extremely sick child and rushes her to the hospital where, despite the staff's efforts, the little girl dies.
  • Maggie and her staff desperately try to save a man's life.
  • Seth and Cassiel watch as an armed man robs a convenience store while pointing his gun at the teller in a brief scene.
  • A person is hit by a truck and dies after a few minutes.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handgun: Used by a man to rob a convenience store.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Chickensh*t," "Bozo," "Freak," and "Screwed up."
  • Seth, who isn't human and can't feel pain, accidently cuts clear through his finger with a knife (that immediately "heals" and isn't bloody). Maggie then takes a knife and purposefully cuts through his hand, but again he's not hurt and there's no pain.
  • Seth jumps from the top of a skyscraper (his "leap of faith" to become a human).
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There's just a minor bit of tense music in a few scenes.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 8 "s" words, 2 hells, 2 craps, 1 ass, 1 damn, and 3 uses of "Oh my God," 2 of "Oh God" and 1 use each of "Christ" and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • The angels hear people's thoughts and we hear a man in his car thinking, "I'm not asking for it every night, just twice a week..." and later we hear a broken thought that includes "...when a woman decides to sleep with a man..."
  • Maggie's hospital friend, who just commented that all of the men she knows are either married or gynecologists, tells her, "Never date a man who knows more about your vagina than you do."
  • Although we don't see anything, Maggie stands nude after taking a bath and Seth (who's invisible to her) stands behind her, presumably looking at her reflection in the mirror in front of them.
  • Messinger comments about Maggie to Seth, "She's a little flat chested, but hey, all you need is a handful.
  • Although we don't see any activity, we do see Maggie in bed with another doctor suggesting that they may have had sex.
  • We see Messinger's bare butt as he runs out into the ocean for some skinny dipping.
  • Seth sensuously caresses Maggie's skin, but nothing else happens and there's no nudity.
  • Seth and Maggie sensuously kiss and there's more caressing of bodies (but no nudity). From that point on, we only see their heads and shoulders as she asks him, "Do you feel that?" He replies, "Yes." She says, "How's it feel?" He replies, "Warm." They then have sex with heavy breathing and some movement (but again we see nothing below their shoulders). She then says, "We fit together. We were made to fit together."
  • We briefly see full nudity of Seth (including a very brief glimpse of full frontal -- but from the side) as he walks into the shower.
  • SMOKING
  • Messinger pulls out a cigarette in one scene (but doesn't smoke), but does smoke in another.
  • Maggie's part-time boyfriend smokes.
  • Seth and another man smoke once.
  • Some construction workers smoke.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • A mother must deal with her extremely sick child and rushes her to the hospital where, despite the staff's efforts, the little girl dies.
  • Maggie tells a family that their husband/father has just died and we see their grievous reactions.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The existence of angels.
  • Living, and loving life and others, to one's full capacity.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Seth and Cassiel watch as an armed man robs a convenience store while pointing his gun at the teller.
  • Seth, who isn't human and can't feel pain, accidently cuts clear through his finger with a knife (that immediately "heals" and isn't bloody). Maggie then takes a knife and purposefully cuts through his hand, but again he's not hurt and there's no pain. Not knowing who or what he is, she then smacks him several times on the face.
  • A thug punches Seth and his buddies throw him onto the hood of a car as they try to rob him.
  • A person dies several minutes after running into a truck.



  • Reviewed April 3, 1998

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