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Mike Waters lives on the street and befriends the somewhat older and streetwise Scott Favor who shows him what is necessary to survive. Waters suffers from narcolepsy and can fall asleep at any moment and in almost any circumstance. Favor comes from a rich family and is rebelling against his own background. They travel together extensively - Waters is driven by the need to find his biological mother - and spend time in Italy. Later in life however, Favor has joined mainstream society and has little time for his old friend. Written by
. This road will never end. It probably goes all around the world.
This movie isn't about being, or even about being a hustler. "My Own Private Idaho" is about finding a home. In his finest performance, River Phoenix plays Mike, a narcoleptic street hustler with false memories of a terrific childhood. Mike wants to find his mother and family, but how or why he left them is never discussed. This is a movie that shows life at the lowest rung, and is very similar to Kerouac's "On the Road" and especially John Rechy's "City of Night." (In fact the line about becoming a fairy is straight from "City of Night"). Mike and Scott (Keanu Reeves) are both male prostitutes in Oregon. Why either of them have drifted into this profession is anyone's guess. Scott is clearly not gay, but Mike might be and their relationship is what holds the movie together. The film works on many levels, but does have its flaws. It's faux-Shakespearen scenes make the film drag in the middle. Van Sant directed the movie like a dream, which is what Mike's life basically is.
This is a haunting and very sad tale about friendship and finding a home. The performances, especially Phoenix and Udo Kier and Van Sant's dream-like direction are what you remember. "My Own Private Idaho" may be a flawed film, but in my opinion, it is one of the very best of the '90's.
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