My Own Private Idaho

1991 "Wherever, whatever, have a nice day."
7| 1h44m| R| en| More Info
Released: 01 February 1991 Released
Producted By: Fine Line Features
Budget: 0
Revenue: 0
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In this loose adaptation of Shakespeare's "Henry IV," Mike Waters is a gay hustler afflicted with narcolepsy. Scott Favor is the rebellious son of a mayor. Together, the two travel from Portland, Oregon to Idaho and finally to the coast of Italy in a quest to find Mike's estranged mother. Along the way they turn tricks for money and drugs, eventually attracting the attention of a wealthy benefactor and sexual deviant.


Adventure, Drama

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Gus Van Sant

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Fine Line Features


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My Own Private Idaho Audience Reviews

Hottoceame The Age of Commercialism
Protraph Lack of good storyline.
Kien Navarro Exactly the movie you think it is, but not the movie you want it to be.
Haven Kaycee It is encouraging that the film ends so strongly.Otherwise, it wouldn't have been a particularly memorable film
sharky_55 It seems that this film is really two films in one, struggling with another. There is the quiet, brooding masterpiece which has at its core River Phoenix and his search for home and comfort. And then there are the lesser parts of the sum, loosely inspired by Shakespeare, that seem to want to complicate the plot and insert these moments of literary richness. The scenes with William Richert's Falstaff inspired figure take on a strange morphing of the speech, not completely copying the language of the Bard but applying a modern twist on it. What results is a strangely stilted dialogue that doesn't have the poetic and symbolic power of the original, yet is decidedly stiff and uncharacteristic for the manner of street bums. It takes powerful moments from the play, such as Hal's rejection of his mentor and father figure, and renders them stale and emotionless. The real power is in that funeral scene, where the group sing and dance of the late Bob while a cold, frozen Reeves looks on from his own removed domain, no longer a part of them. It's a stunning juxtaposition, and you can feel the regret two ways as they attempt to miss each other's glance. This is more acceptable than the other theatrical moments of the film, such as wildly flamboyant client who has Mike scrub his floors, and a salesman who puts on a wonderful show and dance in the midst of their wanderings. These feel less natural and more of an obligation on the part of Van Sant, as if he was the Bard himself, trying to please a royal patron. So, not as to dismiss these segments of Shakespearean influence, but the real meat of the story is with Mike. He has an odd condition called narcolepsy which has him collapse and sleep at odd times of the day - and this isn't just a technique to feign vulnerability, but embedded within his character entirely. His dreams are the most integral clues to unlocking his psychosis; there is a long straight road that seems to go on forever and onto nowhere, and he peers all around to no avail, and retreats to his late mother's lap instead. Van Sant overlays these dream sequences with red-blooded American country music that sings about their proud land and country and all the wonderful things it holds. It becomes tragically ironic, but also with a slight solace, because they abruptly cut out once he wakes up and he is back in reality, and somehow in the midst of a client's session. It is suggested that he is almost trying to hide away in his dreams and reject his real life - see the strange way in which Van Sant's blocking hides the identity of the client as he walks away after he is done with his 'business'. And of course there are those gorgeous time-lapse sequences where the clouds rush over the never-ending plains. Their fleeting, elusive beauty renders Scott and Carmela's lovemaking almost robotic in its static still-frames.River Phoenix is the real star. Not only in his shattered, clipped dialogue, but in his body language. The pivotal confession of love by the campfire is made doubly vulnerable and heartbreaking by the way in which he hesitatingly spits out each pained line, and then curls up into a ball as if he were naked and completely exposed. Later upon rejection, he will desperately collapse on hard pavement and succumb to his condition all while sobbing - he makes this an art, not just releasing tears but allowing his whole body to break down and shake uncontrollably all while a unsuspecting Scott passes by in his car. He seeks solace in his usual clients, and for a brief, tiny moment, he seems to find it...oh, before they begin to pull his clothes off and reveal their truer desires. The initial intention was to have simply blackouts cuts to indicate Mike's narcolepsy. Instead we have these moments of pure bliss, that speed by all too fast and slip out of his hands. Clayont's editing is erratic and visualises his condition; they will jump forward in time in the blink of an eye, and cut during action jarringly, as if to indicate another narcoleptic episode that robs Mike of whatever pain or pleasure he was experiencing. In one instance, he runs desperately into his mother's former home, as if expecting an embrace, and the footage switches to that grainy, nostalgic POV vision, shaky and nervous, betraying his innermost desires, and then it quickly speeds past the memory jolt, and then back to him sobbing into Scott's arms. This is a masterful bit of film-making; to elicit such a strong emotional reaction but to do it in such a way that robs the character of any moment of solace. And we understand. Van Sant himself is openly gay, but there is not even a hint of personal circumstances or experiences that drive this film forward, but a feeling of universal loneliness. There is a secondary tragedy that this film evokes; that the young River Phoenix, such a tremendous talent, was taken much too soon.
dmaire1221-222-44515 First giving it a 10 because I cant find any flaws in the film . Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix did a perfect performance . I know very little about River Phoenix . Till I watched "Stand By Me " I just found the most talented actor and had it not been from drugs his acting skills would have been unbeatable . Hollywood wants a tragic story to write this would be one .As for the film as I said not one flaw . Keanu Reeves as always shows off his talent at a younger age . Kudos for the director and writer and the casting director .I think I will use this movie for when I have kids to watch with the don't do drugs. Both in the film and the true tragic story of one of its actors ( with so much talent and drugs taking it away )
namashi_1 Loosely based on Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V, 'My Own Private Idaho' is A Difficult, yet Absorbing Story! Its a hard-hitting tale about human-relations, that has been Directed most effectively by Gus Van Sant. Also, the performances are top-notch!'My Own Private Idaho' Synopsis: Two best friends living on the streets of Portland as hustlers embark on a journey of self discovery and find their relationship stumbling along the way. 'My Own Private Idaho' deals with human tragedy & misguidedness. Its central protagonists, haunted by their childhoods, grow up as shallow & angry individuals. And when they embark on a journey together, much after developing a bond, even their friendship, sadly begins to decline. Its a heart-breaking, unsettling story of two lost souls in search of a better life. Gus Van Sant has made terrific cinema with 'My Own Private Idhao'. Although its not flawless, thanks to its dull pacing, but other-wise, it works wonders. The Maverick Filmmaker creates a bleak world, without any hesitations whatsoever. His Direction & Screenplay, both, are competent. Performance-Wise: The Late/Great River Phoenix & Keanu Reeves deliver amazing performances. Phoenix, especially, delivers a searing performance as a troubled soul. He embodies the part & stands out from start to end. Reeves is a revelation. He enacts a rather difficult part, with rare ease & understanding. A Special Mention for William Richert. He's fantastic in a supporting role. On the whole, 'My Own Private Idaho' is a strong effort.
Jason Shaw My Own Private Idaho Director: Gus Van Sant Starring: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo. Gus Van Sant essentially takes on Shakespeare's Henry IV; it featured the aesthetically delightful River Phoenix as Mike Waters, a wonderfully apt narcoleptic male whore who we first get a glimpse of tipping down an open stretch of road in Idaho. Mike and the action shifts from the cold Seattle to equally cold Portland. It is here that he makes friends with Scott Favor, a secretly soon to be rich guy who is also on the game played by the often-maligned Keanu Reeves. The future for both is as uncertain as uncertain can be, will Scott take up the inheritance he about to get, will Mike survive the streets with his narcolepsy?  Mike feels real affections for Scott, however Scott refuses to believe men can really love each and it would seem that Scott is only doing the gay whole whore thing to kill time and get back at his family. Mike believes Scott will continue with the grand life on the streets, turning tricks even after he bags the inheritance; such is the allure of the unknown. There are many of fellow working boys who agree with Mike's view. This is an uneasy picture, a colourful and surreal attempt to really take the characters to a different kingdom. At times, it is a wonderful although slightly glossy take on the real street hustlers shagging their way to oblivion or not as the individual case may be. Drug abuse and risky behaviours are commonplace on the streets and in the world of the male hooker and it is a small feature of this sometimes-disturbing film. The character of Mike seems almost apologetically plausible, abandoned as a child and obsessed with finding his real long lost mother. Scott less believable as the rebellious disillusioned spoilt little rich kid gone rebelliously bad. You really would not have put them together by design, but fate disregards those lines and together they embark on a quest to find Mike's mother, from Portland to Idaho to Italy they do travel. There is no argument the cinematic quality and the unbelievably stunning settings help to make this film an intriguingly striking viewing delight. It is exceptionally well thought out in terms of location and setting and a master-class for any would be cinematographer. The characterisation I found to be impressive, even Keanu Reeves played his part with just the right amount of smug pathos and humour, especially with the flippantly arrogant lines afford to him. River Phoenix works pure magic on screen with this performance and I am fairly sure I'm not alone in believing this is the role that set him into the great immortal movie star hall of fame. It is no wonder that he pulled in a number of 'best actor' type awards for this intrinsically faceted role. His campfire scene, in which Mike declares his love for Scott, is much applauded by audiences and critics alike – Newsweek claiming it to be "A marvel of delicacy" it really is a testament to what a wonderful talent River Phoenix was, because he wrote that part of the script himself. Village Voice said, "Phoenix vanishes with reckless triumph into his role". It earned around £5 million at the box office worldwide, which is quite impressive, more than that in video and DVD sales. My Own Private Idaho takes the spirit and passion of Shakespeare, bends, manipulates and shapes it to find form in a more modern setting, which works beyond expectation in the most part. Although the traditionalist in me seems to hold the opinion that you should not mess with old Shaky and if you do, you best be prepared to face the harshest of critics. Adaptations are always open to personal interpretation and modifications, which others may not agree with, like or even accept, yet this one seems to work and seems to be commended as a job well done.Read more and find out where this film made it in the Top 50 Most Influential Gay Movies of All Time book, search on Amazon for Top 50 Most Influential Gay Movies of All Time, or visit -