My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Pssst, want to check out My Own Private Idaho in our new look?
See all comments
Strange film, but very watchable. The Shakespeare link seems to have been tagged in later, perhaps when Van Sant realised there wasn't enough going on in the story with River passing out every two seconds. Keanu's very good, surprisingly, and any film with Phoenix is fascinating now, sadly.
This movie breaks my heart.
I've read that Gus Van Sant combined three unfinished scripts to create My Own Private Idaho, and it shows. There's the story of male prostitutes (River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves) on the road. There's the modern adaptation of Henry IV with only slightly modified Shakespearean verse focusing on the Hal/Falstaff relationship on the streets of Portland. And there's the trip to Italy. This creates some important tonal shifts, with real male prostitutes telling horror stories for the camera, mixed in with Elizabethan delivery, beautifully real emotions, love scenes shot as erotic paintings, a musical number, and flights of surreal fancy. What brings it all together is Phoenix's character. A narcoleptic poet, he dreams of a mother figure and of a farm house in Idaho. This longing for a place to belong (ideally, someone's arms) is what drives the picture, and he keeps waking up in strange situations, having slept his life away. Because he sees the world in poetic terms, it justifies even the Shakespeare stuff. I don't think we're meant to see those scenes as fact, so much as his interpretation of them. It's a world view, filled with contradictions, stories told but not always believed, and moments preserved or lost in memory.
to see which of your friends have seen this movie!
In 11 official lists
View all lists this movie is in
This movie ranks #10 in BFI Flare's The Best LGBTQ+ Films of All Time
This movie ranks #53 in BFI's 100 Road Movies
This movie ranks #59 in Jennifer Eiss's 500 Essential Cult Movies
This movie ranks #161 in A.V. Club's The New Cult Canon
This movie ranks #302 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #429 in Mark Cousins's The Story of Film: An Odyssey
This movie ranks #564 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #590 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #713 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #832 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #873 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema