My Own Private Idaho follows the journey of two street hustlers, Mike (River Phoenix) and Scott (Keanu Reeves). Mike has the condition of narcolepsy, something that comes up multiple times in the film, starting in the beginning while standing at a lonely stretch of highway in Idaho. Later, he gets hired by an older woman, who takes him back to her mansion, where two other hustlers await, including Scott, Mike’s best friend. Right before performing his services for the woman, he experiences another fit of narcolepsy.
Soon, Scott agrees to join Mike on a trip to Idaho to try to see his older brother Richard. Along the way, Mike confesses his love for Scott, which is not quite reciprocated. Once Mike arrives, Richard awkwardly tries to tell Mike who his father is, but Mike replies that he already knows, that it’s Richard himself. He then goes to find his mother, supposedly working at a hotel, only to find she’s gone to Italy to find her own family.
Scott and Mike decide to go to Italy, but find that she’s already returned to America. While there, Scott falls in love with a young woman there, leaving Mike alone to face his discoveries, heartbroken. Soon he returns to Portland, where Scott continues to reject him. Not much later, he finds himself again on a strip of Idaho freeway, with another narcoleptic episode, when a stranger pulls him into the car.
“It gets you below the emotional belt in a searing, delicate way. No movie this year approaches such magnificent imagery, such delectable poetry.”
— Desson Thomson, Washington Post
Did You Know?
My Own Private Idaho was a troubled production from the beginning, and was actually a merger of three different projects that Gus Van Sant was working on. He was very intent on adapting Shakespeare and retaining the quality of the original language in the film, which New Line Cinema initially rejected, but which the international market seemed to be quite excited for, allowing for much of the dialogue to maintain the original Shakespearean feel. Review our Gay Themed Films Here