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A slumming rich kid (Keanu Reeves) teams up with a narcoleptic poor boy (River Phoenix) to make a living as gay hustlers on the mean streets of Portland in Gus Van Sant's celebrated indie drama.
A landmark of nineties American independent cinema, Gus Van Sant's follow-up to his breakout film Drugstore Cowboy features one of Keanu Reeves' finest performances. A very loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry IV relocated to the mean streets of Portland, Oregon, Idaho stars Reeves as Scott, the rebellious son of the city's mayor, who is making a living on the streets as a gay hustler along with his narcoleptic friend Mike (an indelible River Pheonix). While Scott is determined to live life to the fullest before inevitably returning to the moneyed family fold, the dead-ended Mike is more wistful and withdrawn as he searches for his long-lost mother and harbours a secret love for Scott. With its dreamlike, almost surreal visuals set against an amazing soundtrack ranging from 1920s crooner Rudy Vallee to The Pogues to Madonna, My Own Private Idaho is arguably Van Sant's signature film and marked Reeves' transition from teen heartthrob to a mature and credible actor; the film also established Reeves' future pattern of moving dexterously between Hollywood blockbuster fare and smaller, indie-flavoured projects.