Combustible Celluloid
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With: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo, William Richert, Chiara Caselli, Grace Zabriskie, Udo Kier, Flea
Written by: Gus Van Sant
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
MPAA Rating: R for strong sensuality, language and drug use
Running Time: 104
Date: 09/12/1991

My Own Private Idaho (1991)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Connoisseur of Roads

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho was my favorite film in 1991. I saw it three times in the theater (easy, given that I worked at a movie theater and could get free passes to it). I was drawn to it perhaps the way earlier audiences might have been drawn to an outlaw film like Rebel Without a Cause. It's a mixed-up grab bag of linear storytelling and experimental techniques, with elements of Shakespeare mashed up against a totally modern story of sexualized teens. River Phoenix gives perhaps the strongest performance of his remarkable, mercurial, and tragically short career as Mike, a narcoleptic street hustler. While servicing a client, he meets Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves), a fellow hustler who belongs to a wealthy family. They begin to hang out together, and with a Falstaff-like figure. They travel, there's a betrayal, a song by the Pogues, and things drift ever onward like a road that goes all the way around the world. It's as touching a portrait of loneliness and need as was ever created in the American independent cinema.

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