My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Filmed mostly in the PNW, the film was loosely based on Gus Van Sant’s adapted version of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, combined with one of his original scripts. It developed out the director’s inspiration from watching Orson Welles's 1965 film, Chimes at Midnight. The original title for the film was to be Minions of the Moon.
Mike (River Phoenix) and Scott (Keanu Reeves) are two young street hustlers who undertake a journey to find Mike’s mother. Their paths ultimately relay an exposition on the universality of human loneliness and longing for love, where each one must struggle with their own demons. Mike is prone to narcoleptic fits during times of stress and becomes faced with the pain of a deep and unreciprocated love. Scott rebels against his father, the mayor of Portland, and the implications of a large inheritance to be bestowed on his 21st birthday.
One of Van Sant’s major themes is focus on the marginal, and especially with this film, the boundaries ought to have been pushed even further. Desire is too controlled for the intensity that is actually implicated, and Van Sant plays it a bit too safe with the sex scenes. A creative film, but it doesn’t go all the way.
Despite it’s shortcomings, the film leaves the viewer to wrestle with harsh realities where people and events exist simply as they are, without omnipotent or outside judgment. My Own Private Idaho is an empty and lonely road, not without a certain sense of irony. According to Mike, the road seems to say, “Have a nice day,” and then exit into the subconscious recesses of interior existence where each individual comes face to face with their own gaping wounds.
- Story B
- Acting B+
- Visuals A-
- Originality/Innovation B+
- Enjoyability B
- Overall B+
- DVD Extras NA