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  • 1991movierewind

Episode #115: My Own Private Idaho

Listen to Episode 115 of the Podcast here while you enjoy the show notes.

SUMMARY - In My Own Private Idaho, Mike (played by River Phoenix) is a street hustler living in Portland. Mike’s best friend Scott (played by Keanu Reeves) comes from a well-off family but left it behind to also hustle. When Mike gets information that might help him find his long-lost mother, Scott joins him on the journey that takes them to places neither expected.

Screenplay by Gus Van Sant; Directed by Gus Van Sant; and premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 4, 1991.


The VHS had two previews. One was for Night on Earth which we covered almost 100 episodes ago. The second was for The Rapture, which intrigued us a bit.


The movie instantly showed off its absolutely incredible cinematography. There are some awe inspiring images.

There are also some fancy tricks employed

This scene with the magazine covers talking to each other is much more complicated than it seems due to the tech available back in 1991.

Some of the best moments are when the kids are telling what appear to be real stories of how they got into the street hustling life.

When Bob comes to town, it starts a strange turn of shifting to Shakespeare inspired dialogue. Most of the actors cannot deliver that well.

It also takes away from the focus of the relationship between our two leads.

Once they get on the road, things get a bit more interesting for us.

And the characters get to develop a bit more.

Speaking of characters, there are quite a few. Some don't get much screen time.

The love story angle got a little rushed.

When all was said and done, it was a very interesting movie and while we wish certain plot points weren't so ambiguous, we didn't mind the open-ended final shot.

Awards Talk: At the Venice Film Festival, it won Best Actor for River Phoenix and had a Golden Lion nomination. Later at the Spirit Awards, it won Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Music (Bill Stafford). It was also nominated for Cinematography, Director, and Best Picture.


This week we don't have any true crime exactly, but we are talking about the deaths of River Phoenix and Rodney Harvey

Here are some of the sources Nikki utilized:

and for Rodney Harvey

River's band Aleka’s Attic appears on the soundtrack with their song Too Many Colors

We discussed Johnny Depp's band "P". Here's their song Michael Stipe which played when River passed.


Nikki 1-5 star scale - 4 out of 5

Jon 0-4 star scale - 3 out of 4

Would you watch it again? - We're both a slightly hesitant yes. Nikki says she'd like to experience it in a theater. Jon says he'd want to see a few other Gus Van Sant movies first. While the Shakespearian dialogue didn't completely turn us off, it does mean we might give this a bit more time before thinking about watching it again.

If you want to watch My Own Private Idaho, as of this recording in May 2023, it’s available on Digital Rental, VHS, DVD. Check your local listings.


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Join us next time for Poison available on Prime, Kanopy, Fandor, Digital Rental, VHS, DVD


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