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My Own Private Idaho [VHS]

169 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo, William Richert, Rodney Harvey
  • Directors: Gus Van Sant
  • Writers: Gus Van Sant, William Shakespeare
  • Producers: Allan Mindel, Anthony Brand, Laurie Parker, Solomon J. LeFlore
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English, Italian
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: September 9, 1997
  • Run Time: 104 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6303422969
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,676 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Gus Van Sant's often-beautiful 1991 film stars River Phoenix as a narcoleptic, Seattle male prostitute and Keanu Reeves as the rich friend who agrees to help him find his mother. After a solid hour or so of the two traveling on this quest through Idaho and Italy, Van Sant throws a wrench into the works by conjuring a gay version of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I, with Reeves's character as Prince Hal and filmmaker William Richert (who directed Phoenix in the 1988 Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon) as a variation on Falstaff. The experiment is interesting to watch, but you can't help wondering what on earth happened to the movie. Still, the film has a cult status one can't argue with, and Phoenix gives a tragic performance that stays in the memory. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Dark Mechanicus JSG on July 19, 2003
Format: DVD
Most people seem shocked when I tell them that "My Own Private Idaho" is one of my favorite movies ever, though I don't see why. One of Gus Van Sant's lower budget films, this melancholic adaptation of Shakespeare's "Henry IV" to the American West (chiefly Portland, Oregon and all around the western states) follows the adventures of a road-tripping prodigal son of wealthy and powerful politician (played to perfection by a reflective Keanu Reeves)and his best friend, a narcoleptic prostitute (a visionary performance by the late River Phoenix).
"My Own Private Idaho" is a marvel: dreamlike, eerie, haunting, constantly engaging, often surreal. There are a handful of films I have seen that completely transport me out of the feeling I'm seeing a film: this is one of them. The film's first haunting image of River Phoenix, alone, on a desolate stretch of Western highway, taken by his sickness, has to be seen to be believed; the eerie "Riding the Prairie" is a perfect complement to this movie about two strangers in a very strange land, journeying among the hustlers, hookers, con-men, schemers and bon vivants in the modern American West.
The plot is loose and rangy, and like its subjects, Van Sant uses it as needed to move the story along: Phoenix's character wants a reconciliation with his estranged mother, and certainly peace with himself. Keanu, sensing debauchery and fun, tags along, and the movie rambles about with them, taking note of their adventures and their pursuers (particularly delightful and outre is their awkward and funny tryst with an older woman, spoiled by Phoenix's narcolepsy, and a splendidly funny turn by Udo Kier as Hans, an unbearably kinky German john who simply will not be left behind).
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133 of 164 people found the following review helpful By Ian Vance on January 19, 2004
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
When *My Own Private Idaho* hit the rental shelves of the local movie theater way back in the early 90's, its reputation spread immediately among the young and restless of my small, conservative home-town. The consensus was of near-unanimous disgust, with common descriptions including "sick," "depraved," and that age-old chestnut "Confusing" with a capital "C." And yet my opinion was, typically, not that of the consensus. My artist's spirit identified with the wanderlust-yearning and puckish wonder inhabited in the vagabond Scott and Mike - a somewhat-sheltered mind's naïve lust for that opposite of its own experience. Although I certainly found myself shocked by the depiction of homosexual prostitution, the romantic tone and Shakespearan prose-play helped to penetrate (so to speak) this gutterpunk-fantasy firmly into the deepest reaches of my life-thirsty cerebrum; if anything, I found the homophobic snarls of my teenage compatriots in regards to this film more disturbing - on an immediate, reactionary level - than any fantastical degradation the film itself presented.
Immersed in that heady sensation of nostalgia and curiosity, I looked forward to a mature re-viewing of this art house masterpiece: of filtering Van Zant's intentions through an adult lens. Accordingly, I found that which impressed me most as a child seemed less important to my current mindset, and vice versa - no longer was I wholly enraptured by the wide-shots of empty highways and the plethora of bizarre chance encounters (elements so common to life on the road): having Kerouac'ed my way across the world, I must admit to preferring my own experiences to *Idaho's* hodge-podge questing.
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 20, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Rarely have I been fortunate enough to stumble upon a movie like My Own Private Idaho. From the opening scene of River Phoenix's character Mike Waters standing on the road (that seems to stretch on forever) to his last words back on the same road at the films close. ("I've been tasting roads my whole life. This road will never..end. It probably goes all around the world.") I've watched this movie over and over and I still find it to be the most beautiful, bittersweet, funny, brave and thought-provoking film I've ever seen. The deinitive indie film of the 90's. The issues raised are so close to my own humble heart that certain scenes, (notabley the camp fire scene, Bob's death and funeral, and the closing scene) never fail to reduce me to a blithering mess of empathy, hope, sadness and happiness. A powerful cinematic experience indeed. Brillient direction, fascinating and daring subject matter and, most watch-worthy of all, the best performance ever captured on screen by anyone anywhere. River Phoenix's performance as Mike Waters is simultainiously painfully real, heartwrenchingly sad and achingly beautiful. Much like the actor himself. Hollywoods greatest loss. River, I love you, miss you, thank you and will NEVER forget you.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Dai-keag-ity on February 12, 2007
Format: DVD
I know this review gets a little self-indulgent, but if you'll allow me to get autobiographical for just a second, you'll see why I do.

When River Phoenix breathed his last in front of Johnny Depp's Viper Room on Halloween morning in 1993, I think I was just the right age to feel a certain frisson in his passing that wouldn't have been there a year or two either way. My friend and I came home from a snowy night among trick or treaters to graphic news accounts of Phoenix's passing, and for reasons that made perfect sense to us then, we went out and got this movie on video. Ultimately we ended up buying it and watching it shall we say A LOT till about the end of the year, when new misfortunes came along, eventually in the next spring taking the form of Kurt Cobain's suicide, which trumped all previous newsworthy events in our young lives.

Well, recently I got My Own Private Idaho on DVD, motivated more about nostalgia for ninth-grade and a weirdly River Phoenix obsessed fall than out of remaining affection for the movie itself, but you know, after watching it from my perspective of today, this is a lot better film than for all my sentimentality I'd remembered it being. From its re-telling of Shakespeare with a modern boldness unseen by anything else until Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio's Romeo+Juliet a few years later, to its in-your-face trip into the living hell of junky male prostitutes living homeless in circa 1990 Portland and Seattle, Gus Van Sant's quirky film seems even more an achievement now than it ever did back in the day. In viewing My Own Private Idaho, you get to hear tales of life on the streets as told by real-life hustlers, and you get to see a pre-A-list Keanu Reeves act in his own unique and inimitable style.
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