My Own Private Idaho
As I was watching this I had to wonder if the actors understood what the film was about because I sure didnít. But to be honest, it has Keanu Reeves in it, so I wasnít that bothered trying to work out a plot, I was just watching him. Iím not sure Iíd describe this as a gay movie, despite being about hustlers with lots of ďdatesĒ with johns. As many of them consist of weird kink like cleaning wearing a little Dutch boy costume and the like, itís certainly not sexy in any way at all.
So, other than Keanu, who I could watch watching paint dry, I canít really say that much about this weird little waste of time.
Iíve waited so long to see this iconic film I suppose it was inevitable Iíd be disappointed.† Quirky would be one way of describing it.† A muddled mess some might say is more accurate.†
The best thing itís got going is River Phoenix who is outstanding, totally convincing as street prostitute Mikey whose narcolepsy (caused by stress) makes him fall asleep at the most inopportune moments- like with clients or in the middle of the road to nowhere.† Keanu Reeves is very, very pretty, but unfortunately doesnít have the same natural ability as Phoenix to inhabit a character. It also doesnít help that he gets to mouth some of the Shakespearian dialogue liberally and misguidedly sprinkled throughout, which distracted from the intensity of the characters Mikey (Phoenix) and Scotty (Reeves).† However Keanuís emotional distance as an actor serves this character rather well, and he does a pretty good job all things considered.† I think heís underrated as an actor anyway- though I could be biased cus, like I say, heís pretty.
Mike & Scott are hustlers in Portland, Oregon, living on the streets or staying in a derelict old hotel with a band of misfits led by Bob, larger-than-life Fagin-like character.† Mikey all alone in the world has nothing but what he earns selling his body.† Scotty is actually a rich-kid rebel- dad is local mayor - about to inherit a considerable fortune when he turns 21 in a weekís time.† Mikey is a messed up boy dreaming of an ideal of white picket fence family life back home in the Potato State, Idaho.†
The film is partly a road movie following Mikey & Scotty as they look for his lost mother in Idaho and then Rome, but also deals with coming of age issues and Scottís attempts to reconcile his real father and Bob, the man he claims to love more.† Thatís part of the problem, because the separate strands just donít mesh together all that well.† There are all sorts of minor things going on too, like a sleazy German john who appears to follow the boys around nursing unrequited passion for one or both and carrying on very oddly.† An attempt to link Scott and Bob with Shakespeareís Henry IV and Falstaff really didnít work for me, with actors spouting verbatim dialogue from the play to no good reason.† Then there are the other hustlers whose stories we hear briefly, like the beautiful boy who was raped and another made to perform acts he didnít want to by abusive clients.†
All of which takes time away from the characters, Scotty & Mikey, whose exact relationship is ambiguous until a wonderful campfire scene just the two of them together, no gimmicks or tricks, shows that whatever Scotty says he believes, there is more than friendship between these two.† Scott claims he only has sex with men for the money but his earlier tender care for Mikey during his sleepy-times is I think fair indication of feelings he tries very hard to deny.† The ending is open to interpretation, and I changed my mind between a first and second viewing whether it was happy or sad.†
This is River Phoenixís film. †He makes Mikey so very real it hurts to watch him- maybe shadowed by what we know happened to the actor in real life.† His character is more fully developed than Scott; I wouldíve liked less Shakespeare and more Scotty.† As it is weíre left to draw our own conclusions as to whether Scott becomes one of those rapacious clients, rich and successful but needing recourse to vulnerable young men to appease hunger their wives canít satisfy, or if he takes Mikey and the two of them go to find their own place to belong, together making that family Mikey so craves.†