Logline: A pair of young male hustlers, one of which is a narcoleptic in search of his mother, embark on a journey of self-discovery together across the Pacific Northwest.
Review: Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho is a beautiful film that grapples with many themes, including unrequited love. It is a road movie about searching for home. Mike Waters (River Phoenix) has no home while Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves) is running away from home.
The film is wonderfully shot with images that will become engrained in your mind, such as a house crashing down onto an open road and salmon making their annual run upstream. It is a profoundly moving film that resonates deeply.
River Phoenix is one of my favorite actors and I love watching him onscreen. He was an extremely talented actor whose life was sadly, cut short by drugs. Idaho is Phoenix’s best role and performance. He is a revelation and he brings so much to the film. Phoenix’s narcoleptic character, Mike Waters is the lens through which the viewer sees the film, lending a unique perspective. To see just how great Phoenix was, I also recommend watching Stand By Me (1986) and Running on Empty (1988), for which the young actor received an Oscar nomination. I am not a fan of Keanu Reeves as an actor but he is very good in this film.
Idaho is unpredictable and unique. One section of the film includes Shakespearean dialogue and in one documentary-like sequence, actual street hustlers from Portland recount some of their experiences. One would think that these unusual elements would not work but in Idaho, they do.
The film’s excellent soundtrack has an unusual mix of music including Rudy Vallee’s “Deep Night,” Eddy Arnold’s “Cattle Call,” and Madonna’s “Cherish.”
Idaho is one of the best examples of American independent filmmaking. It is honest, raw, and daring. Idaho juxtaposes dreams with reality and blends various film techniques, ideas, and themes to create a poetic, haunting film.
Great scene: Phoenix wrote the dialogue for this beautiful campfire scene.