My Own Private Idaho
My Own Private Idaho
(1991) is a drama directed by Gus Van Sant
and based on a screen story by Van Sant and additional material suggested by the play
Henry IV by William Shakespeare.
Among the young street
hustlers in Portland, Oregon, is Mike Walters (River Phoenix), a sweet but ratty young
blond who is obsessed with finding his long-vanished mother. He is a prostitute and severe
narcoleptic who, during stressful situations, collapses frequently into a narcotic state.
This condition often leads to his being picked up by clients while unconscious and then
awaking hours later in unfamiliar surroundings.
His best friend, and his
opposite, is dark-haired Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves), the aristocratic son of
Portlands mayor (Tom Troupe). Unlike the gay Mike, who has a deep crush on Scott,
the latter is basically straight. He has sex with men only for money and to get back, so
he claims, at his ultra conservative family. His slumming is part of his
rebellion against his hypercritical, demanding father.
Determined to locate his
mother, Mike convinces Scott to join him in an odyssey back to Idaho, and then, following
up further clues provided by his alcoholic brother/father (James Russo), on to Rome,
Italy. On the road, they encounter a sleazy Continental Salesman, Hans (Udo Kier), who
indulges in sex with both teenagers.
In Italy, Scott, anxious
to reaffirm his sense of masculinity, becomes deeply attracted to the beautiful Carmella
(Chiara Caselli) and breaks with his love-sick friend Mike for her. Back in the States,
Scott, now twenty-one, has come into a lucrative inheritance and rigidly abandons his
former friends. Meanwhile, much older Bob Pigeon (William Richert), the leader of the
street urchins, who had befriended Scott in his fledgling days, dies rejected by Scott,
paralleling the death of Scotts political father. Pathetically lonely Mike is left
with his broken illusions.
The style of My Own Private
Idaho is pillowy and caressing; it makes you feel as if you were gently hypnotized. The
implication here is that the movie is going straight from Mikes sleepy head into
your own. The characters sometimes speak in a kind of Elizabethan style and they have been
compared to Prince Hal and Falstaff. Although the central characters are prostitutes, the
movie is not really about sex, which does not interest either Mike nor Scott very much.
There is no mechanical plot
that has to grind to a Hollywood conclusion, and no contrived test for the heroes to pass;
this is a movie about two particular young men, and how they pass their lives.
Van Sant has an arty side, and this time hes given it
Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly