Indie Gems: My Own Private Idaho

I've been on a Gus Van Sant kick lately. He's a great director, very artsy, very visual. He loves the "long shot". One of my favorite films by him is 'My Own Private Idaho'. Released in 1991, it stars then up-and-coming Keanu Reeves and the late River Phoenix.

The film centers around two friends, Mike(Phoenix) and Scott. (Reeves) They are hustlers living in Portland, OR. Although they are friends they are in many ways total opposites. Mike is gay, quiet and obsessed with finding his long lost mother. Scott is obnoxious, and lives the life of a hustler simply to embarrass his prestigious parents. Mike is in love with Scott, Scott insists he just sells him self to gay men for money. They begin to search for Mike's mother, finding themselves in Portland, Idaho and even Italy on the way.

The film is a character study and Van Sant really lets it show. He's got lots of shots focusing mainly on the actors and not at their surroundings. He really makes you feel for both Mike and Scott. It's not an overly graphic film either. A few shots of drug use and sex. (no nudity) The performances in the film are top notch, and quite underrated in my opinion. It's one of Keanu Reeve's best performances to date. Doing films like 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' and the 'Matrix' trilogy don't really do Reeves the justice he deserves. River Phoenix's performance is the best in the film, but watching it now is a little tragic. Phoenix died of a drug overdose at the height of his career. Who knows what this guy could've done? He already had an Oscar nom under his belt at age 18, and he showed great depth even as a child actor. (Stand By Me) Watching him in this film makes me want to see him more, but unfortunately that's not the case.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "Yeah. Well, I don't know, I mean, I mean for me, I could love someone even if I, you know, wasn't paid for it. I love you, and... you don't pay me." - Mike (River Phoenix)

Fun Fact: I ordered the collector's edition from Amazon and it came with an interesting little book with bits by author J.T Leroy and other film critics. Very cool.


  1. His performance in this movie was so good that it is the movie I always point to in hopes that he could actually pull off some real acting again.

    So dice.


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