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My Own Private Idaho Movie Review

phoenix sant gus river

Zzzzzz… Of course, I didn't know at the time that I was watching self-destruction in action, I thought I was just watching a couple of actors delivering dialogue that was written for them by the director. Even if I had known what was going to happen in front of the Viper Club in the wee hours of Halloween, 1993, my reaction to My Own Private Idaho would still be zzzzzz…. There's a very long, very boring gay version of Shakespeare's Henry IV here that you have to fidget through or leave. Major critics raved about the performance of River Phoenix, then 21, as a narcoleptic gay hustler, but any of his performances from 1985's Explorers through 1991's Dogfight are better. Reportedly, his serious involvement with drugs began with this picture and in two of his last three films his performances were way out of control. In any event, both Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix had the burden of bringing Gus Van Sant's screenplay to life, and it couldn't have been easy. This will remain a cult film no matter what anyone says about it, like James Dean's auto safety spot with Gig Young and Tyrone Power's public service message about preventing heart disease.

1991 (R) 105m/C River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo, William Richert, Rodney Harvey, Michael Parker, Flea, Chiara Caselli, Udo Kier, Grace Zabriskie, Tom Troupe; D: Gus Van Sant; W: Gus Van Sant; C: John Campbell, Eric Alan Edwards. Independent Spirit Awards ‘92: Best Actor (Phoenix), Best Screenplay; National Society of Film Critics Awards ‘91: Best Actor (Phoenix). VHS, LV, Letterbox, Closed Caption

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