25 Gay Films Everyone Should See: The Sequel

Another round of films that helped to define the culture -- and cultural impact - of LGBT cinema'


It’s not necessarily clear what one is getting with My Own Private Idaho. As with any masterpiece, each viewing reveals a new hue or mood. Between the Shakespearian themes and dialogue, to the streets of Portland, Ore., and Rome, and just a touch of narcolepsy for whatever reason, gay director and writer Gus Van Sant’s Idaho may leave you scratching your head. Which is fine. The Mona Lisa is what you make it, and so is My Own Private Idaho, with its bits of goofiness, stinging betrayals and iconic imagery. While much of this peculiar picture is timeless, there are elements that anchor Idaho to an era. This was River Phoenix at his best (Idaho is to Phoenix what Rebel Without a Cause is to James Dean). Further, Phoenix as a scruffy gay hustler, plying his trade in Seattle and Portland, could have been the poster boy for ”grunge.” On one hand, Idaho is a beautiful, enigmatic and delicate story of abandonment. On the other, it is a time-capsule escape to a place where lyrics were slurred, heroin was fashionable and River was king. As an added bonus, Keanu Reeves’s particular style of L.A.-enunciation acting actually worked in this instance.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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