I heard about this movie My Own Private Idaho (1990) for a while. Trotted as a gay movie starring the late great (can I say that?) River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves. I finally saw it and it is a great treasure. A bit disorienating, this artsy splice-together movie loosely based on Shakespeare's Henry IV part 1 directed and written by Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, To Die For, Elephant). The movie even goes in and out from current lingo to Shakespearen in a shake of a hat. River Phoenix was great and is great in this movie, touching protrayal of narcoleptic hussler Mike from Idaho. It is a dark real world for Mike, his mother dumped him, he has no support, he lives selling his body for crummy bills and lives on the streets. And in high stress, he falls asleep for long periods looking like a living ragdoll.
Keanu plays Scott, the son of a mayor and also a hussler and everyone lives in awe of him. He is a good friend but also will inherit a lot of money. All the husslers and some females as well adore their mentor Bob, a loony bum. This movie thrusted River into gay icon status. Mike loves Scott but Scott doesn't exactly return it. Their friendship is put a test on a Journey to italy to find Mike's mother and Scott meets a beautiful girl, English pupil of Mike's mother. Mike looks up to Scott, someone he can't quite reach or feel close to, even though they are friends. We can all sympathize with that. While in many indie movies that study characters, the characters are quiet and you just stare at them and it is meant to be something but its nothing. But in this one, it means something. Now, would I consider this a 'gay movie'? Not really. A movie gay men would enjoy? Yes. A movie a movie lover would enjoy? Yes. River Phoenix died of a drug overdose in 1993, he was 23, my age right now until August, he was close friends with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and is in this movie as well and is really great. More on River on my next post.