Year of Release: 1991
Director: Gus Van Sant
Stars: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo, William Richert, Rodney Harvey, Chiara Caselli, Michael Parker, Jessie Thomas, Flea, Grace Zabriskie, Tom Troupe, Udo Kier, Mickey Cottrell
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8
The film follows the story of Mike Waters, a young street hustler, who suffers from narcolepsy, and who is desperately trying to find his long lost mother. He has the help of another hustler, Scott Favor, the son of the Mayor of Portland, who is rebelling against his upbringing, by joining Mike and other young street hustlers, who form a resemblance of a community, where all are accepted and helped (overseen by the father figure of Bob Pigeon). Mike and Scott, end up following a lead that Mike's mother is in Italy, where they eventually meet the lovely Carmella, who changes the dynamics between the two young men forever.
Gus Van Sant has built a career that is eclectic and filled with different subjects and matters - for every big mainstream feature he makes, such as "Finding Forrester", there's always a "Elephant" or "Last Days", where his universe and aesthetic are clearly more on display. His more personal films usually tend to veer towards young men, who are trying to find their way in the world, a path that is usually filled with obstacles and where their first instinct is to rebel against everything and everyone. "My Own Private Idaho" lives from that feeling - the disconnect that Mike feels, of not belonging anywhere, of being alone. Van Sant captures the lives of the young street hustlers, of their dreams and every day lives, with a raw quality, that feels authentic and almost documentary style. The film benefits from a fantastic central performance from River Phoenix, in a role that has remained iconic and forever linked to his brief screen life. A film always worth revisiting.