My Own Private Idaho [1991]

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

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