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3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on January 19, 2004
When *My Own Private Idaho* hit the rental shelves of the local movie theater way back in the early 90's, its reputation spread immediately among the young and restless of my small, conservative home-town. The consensus was of near-unanimous disgust, with common descriptions including "sick," "depraved," and that age-old chestnut "Confusing" with a capital "C." And yet my opinion was, typically, not that of the consensus. My artist's spirit identified with the wanderlust-yearning and puckish wonder inhabited in the vagabond Scott and Mike - a somewhat-sheltered mind's naïve lust for that opposite of its own experience. Although I certainly found myself shocked by the depiction of homosexual prostitution, the romantic tone and Shakespearan prose-play helped to penetrate (so to speak) this gutterpunk-fantasy firmly into the deepest reaches of my life-thirsty cerebrum; if anything, I found the homophobic snarls of my teenage compatriots in regards to this film more disturbing - on an immediate, reactionary level - than any fantastical degradation the film itself presented.
Immersed in that heady sensation of nostalgia and curiosity, I looked forward to a mature re-viewing of this art house masterpiece: of filtering Van Zant's intentions through an adult lens. Accordingly, I found that which impressed me most as a child seemed less important to my current mindset, and vice versa - no longer was I wholly enraptured by the wide-shots of empty highways and the plethora of bizarre chance encounters (elements so common to life on the road): having Kerouac'ed my way across the world, I must admit to preferring my own experiences to *Idaho's* hodge-podge questing. Consequently, the depiction of street-life squalor, early 90's-era Portland style, resonated far deeper this time around: a bell-toll for the doomed.
River Phoenix shines in perhaps his defining role as Mike, a homeless narcoleptic endlessly conking out in moments of stress, shivering and twitching in ecstatic remembrance of mommy dearest and sharecropper-esque glory (decrepit farmhouses and dust-bowl potato-sprawl): several scenes, including his breakdown at the fire and romper-stomp at the funeral, shine with a quicksilver talent so brilliant that it easily transcends the drug-addled ghost Phoenix was already beginning to become. As for Keanu Reeves... well, I've always been of the opinion that he is the most underrated of H-wood's golden A-list, a man with deep presence and charisma, hampered by a stoic demeanor and tonal limitations. I must admit I found it rather disconcerting to see Neo preening on the cover of a porno-rag: still, Reeve's subtle reactions to Fat Bob and Mike's outspoken coat-tail riding; his recitation of Shakespeare, Henry V style, with a cowboy twang thrown in at the pivotal tension-trigger; and finally his ascension from rebellious naïf to "master of the universe"-Reeves gives an outstanding performance, among his very best (though this may come across as an oxymoron to some - so be it).
Moreover, the very tools that romanticize *Idaho's* ne'er-do-well protagonists -- Celtic rhythms, lurid colors, Ye Olde English capering - also flip-side emphasize the constant-trauma and grimy exploitation of the LCD rent-boy's raw existence, with suffering only alleviated via spurts of snorting, drinking, mischief and, perchance, a miraculous stranger's unexpected generosity. As Fat Bob and Mike's illusions of wealth-an eternal party utterly devoid of street-life cost-unravel, the subsequent denouement is immeasurably augmented by the early 'warmth' of the film, and the steady chill that seeps through the cracks, numbing body and mind, overwhelm its progression until abrupt collapse upon the desolate highway of the ending.
A few noteworthy scenes: When Fat Bob coldly warns Mike about "Living on yer [arse]," the horrific undercurrent ramifications cut the usual tongue-wag riffing like a knife. Likewise, near the movie's conclusion, when Mike slumps into his ump-teenth narcoleptic fit on a filthy concrete street, the camera pans to Scott newly-settled in his seat of mobile power, enforcing the inevitable destiny of these lost souls, harlots high and low: one elevated to the highest reaches of society, the other forever abandoned to the cold stone and cold hands of the Outskirts.
*My Own Private Idaho:* a paean for the lost and lonely, the gutterpunk romantic in us all. Five stars.
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on February 10, 2004
While I thought both of these guys did a perfect job, River Phoenix in particular who was amazingly believable.. The story line on the other hand did not really carry my interest as well as it could have. Perhaps my 14-year-old mind cant really wrap around it,(I know what your wondering-why the heck is a 14 year old watching this? Because of one thing. River Phoenix was mind blowing in every role he ever played.) but I did appreciate the acting. I've watched it around 5 times, but I have to say- once you get past the obvious seriousness of the story.. it's hilarious to watch.
Also, I would like to say that I adore River Phonix completely. I'm sure that if he were still here with us, he would be ten times more amazing than he was during his short life.
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on June 16, 2004
Being fairly new to the world of 'art-house' movies, i first found this a little confusing, and i was concerned that this strange approach would hinder the emotional impact of the film, rendering it yet another overly stylish, powerless and incomprehensible piece of modern film-art. I had also heard that it was extremely shocking and controversial. However, i began to understand Gus Van Sant's language, and it soon seemed completely natural. The claims regarding its explicit sexual nature have been, fankly, grossly exaggerated and probably the result of mild homophobia. The camp fire scene is the most memorable, with River Phoenix's perfomance as Mike, subtle and shining as usual, bringing to mind the very similar camp-fire scene in "Stand by me". Having only seen Keanu Reeves appear in such films as 'Speed' and 'the Matrix', in which he hardly demonstrates any power or skill as an actor, it came as somewhat of a pleasant surprise to see his humorous and striking portrayal of Scott. A sensitive choice of music contributed to the mood, both in the comic, nostalgic steel-string guitar to the gentle folk song that plays as Mike vows through tears to find his mother (by the way, does anybody know what that song is or how to find out?). I was slightly disappointed and depressed by the ending, which is extremely inconclusive, but i suppose movies don't always need a conclusive ending to make them good. Overall a visually stylish, emotionally powerful movie, with some fantastic acting by River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves.
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on April 10, 2004
I did not know exactly to expect when watching this movie but I am a big fan of River Phoenix so I decided to give it a shot. I watched about the first third or so of it and found myself thinking I can't believe I rented this, with the exception of a few scenes that I thought were pretty funny, but when the campfire scene happened I became more involved with the film. I started to see Mike more as a person searching for love and his mother instead of just a male prostitute that fell asleep a lot. I thought River's acting was brilliant. Everything I have seen him in so far is so believable to me. For example, when he sees Scott and his new girlfriend kissing at the dinner table he blows smoke at them, out of obvious jealousy, and he can't sleep when he hears them making love in the next room. I think he was excellent in picking up people's mannerisms and the little things that people do. I ended up being so mad at Scott in the end and was saddened in how it seemed that Mike would live that life until his death. The role of Mike was played perfectly in that it seemed that he didn't even like being a prostitute, evident by his fits of sleep during most of those situations, but he was just trying to get by and find love. The believable acting, mostly by River, and the sadness and emotional vulnerability of the second 2 thirds or so of the film more than make up for the beginning. I hope to look deeper into people's lives and less likely to judge others, something that I must admit needing a little more help in. It really saddens me that there are people right now as I'm typing this review living lives similar to this one feeling like the "road never ends" for them. God bless them and everyone else.
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on February 15, 2015
I received the movie on time and at a cost that was below the norm at the time. The only problem was that both the cover for the DVD and the web sight did not indicate the information that the video recording was PAL and not NTSC. I was able to use my computer to watch it but would have prefered to pay more and share watching it on my big LCD screen with friends.
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on April 21, 2003
This film is a thinking persons film, mostly because you have to figure out what just happened. I think the acting was good and the story was sweet and dark. I also have to say that I got lost a few times with the fast story line jumps and time line jumbles. It is the old " Falling in love with some one that can not love you and takes pitty on you" story. The story ends with an artistic rejection of what once was, kind of thing.
I honor the person who can completely understand and enjoy this film and not spend hours thinking about it after. I enjoyed it without fully understanding it. Take a shot at it if you enjoy a challenge.
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on October 5, 2002
As a friend of a narcoleptic, I found this movie to be a sensitive treatment of the disorder. More than that, I found the soundtrack, especially the steel guitar accompaynment played during the naroleptic episodes, to almost cast a spell on the listener. Pity this soundtrack never was issued. Does anybody know where one might find a CD of the artist who performed those pieces? If you do, contact me a
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on July 17, 2002
..have you ever stopped in a midle of a day and think : is it real or just a dream? well, i did. and i still do cause the answer to this's somewhere. perhaps to far away from me..
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on June 15, 2003
Hmmmmm. This is a hard one to review, I mean if you have the smallest tendancy to have little or no affection for lost souls and gay young men, this is probably not for you. Plus, it's weird, well, not so much weird, but freaky or not normal, odd. That doesn't auto-pilot me to presume bad, even with Keeanu Reeves. I hate to sound like a giant cheese ball, but I thought River Phoenix had that "something special", that inverse of a possible urban myth from the time of Great Ignorance, that Native Americans didn't like to be photographed, something to do with their souls, (I don't really know, perhaps it's true and I certainly do not mean to demean that, I'm demeaing the lame way I have managed to conjure up such a stereo-typical depiction, but it is the one that popped into my head) but Phoenix, he's one of those people that has the opposite effect, he radiates in the presence of the camera. And it's just a sad movie about messed up kids, looking for that great evader, LOVE. I love this movie, but can only watch it when I'm in a state. For somewhat happier Phoenix viewing, I prefer Dogfight, but, alas, it is also a bit sad.
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on May 24, 2015
possibly the worst movie I ever saw!
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