My Own Private Idaho


Generally favorable reviews - based on 18 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 18
  2. Negative: 0 out of 18

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Critic Reviews

  1. The New York Times
    Reviewed by: Vincent Canby
    The film itself is invigorating - written, directed, and acted with enormous insight and comic elan. [27 Sept 1991]
  2. 100
    It gets you below the emotional belt in a searing, delicate way. No movie this year approaches such magnificent imagery, such delectable poetry.
  3. Chicago Tribune
    Reviewed by: Dave Kehr
    Beautifully wrought, darkly funny and finally devastating, My Own Private Idaho almost single-handedly revives the notion of personal filmmaking in the United States. [18 Oct 1991]
  4. The style is so eclectic that it may take some getting used to, but Van Sant, working from his own story for the first time, brings such lyrical focus to his characters and his poetry that almost everything works.
  5. 90
    Van Sant's sensibility is wholly original, wholly fresh. "My Own Private Idaho" adds a new ingredient: a kind of boho sweetness. I loved it.
  6. 90
    Before this trippy, mesmerizing movie swerves out of control, it delivers an exhilarating and challenging ride.
  7. My Own Private Idaho achieves more than most movies dream of attempting. The Shakespearian allusions aside, Van Sant has essentially remade "Of Mice and Men" for the nineties, with Mike as the "mouse," Scott as the "man." It is the mouse who roars.
  8. 88
    There is no mechanical plot that has to grind to a Hollywood conclusion, and no contrived test for the heroes to pass; this is a movie about two particular young men, and how they pass their lives.
  9. Van Sant casts a gently hypnotic spell that is not easily forgotten.
  10. It's a daredevil's ride that keeps you glued with fascination.
  11. Entertainment Weekly
    Reviewed by: Lawrence O'Toole
    But Van Sant, whose vision is otherwise sharp, pushes the connection to Shakespeare's Henry IV too far, having Reeves at one point declaim in rhyming couplets, which severely tests even the most forgiving viewer.
  12. Los Angeles Times
    Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    No matter what you've been used to, Idaho is something completely different, a film that manages to confound all expectations, even the ones it sets up itself. [18 Oct 1991]
  13. USA Today
    Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Truth is, Idaho is nothing but set pieces; tossed into a mix whose meaning is almost certainly private. [27 Sept 1991]
  14. Reviewed by: Philip Thomas
    With a more accomplished script and an actor of rather more technical prowess than Reeves (nabbing the Prince Hal role), this may just have worked. Here, it is just squirmingly embarrassing stuff.
  15. Time
    Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    What plot it has is borrowed, improbably, from Henry IV, and whenever anyone manages to speak an entire paragraph, it is usually a Shakespearean paraphrase. But this is a desperate imposition on an essentially inert film. [28 Oct 1991]
  16. 50
    The Shakespearean side of the story falls short due to Reeves' very narrow range as an actor.
  17. The New Yorker
    Reviewed by: Terrence Rafferty
    It's a beautiful disaster, like a bomb test out in the middle of nowhere. [7 Oct 1991, p.100]
  18. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Julie Salamon
    This is all very strange and a little tedious. Yet there is something arresting and oddly poignant in Mr. Van Sant's playful vision of the road to nowhere. [3 Oct 1991, p.A14(E)]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 46 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 7
  2. Negative: 0 out of 7
  1. Oct 5, 2015
    My Own Private Idaho is an interesting mix of acting, directing, setting, and subject matter. It is an interesting watch but the elementsMy Own Private Idaho is an interesting mix of acting, directing, setting, and subject matter. It is an interesting watch but the elements don't cohere very well or make for a solid movie. The main problem is that little is done to first establish an emotional connection to the main character. Because of that, the rest of the film lacks in dramatic impact. Things happen, the film ends, and the impression is that while the film was decent enough, it could have been better. Full Review »
  2. Jun 9, 2012
    Very loosely and even more creatively based on Shakespeareâ
  3. Feb 16, 2012
    My Own Private Idaho is a dark, complex and emotional film journey. It centres on a spellbinding, honest and tender performance from RiverMy Own Private Idaho is a dark, complex and emotional film journey. It centres on a spellbinding, honest and tender performance from River Phoenix, playing Mike, a young gay street hustler with narcolepsy who goes on a journey across the USA, and eventually to Europe, to find his long-lost mother. He is accompanied by his best friend, and object of his unrequited love, Scott (Keanu Reeves), who is the son and heir of a rich and elderly aristocrat. Over the course of their journey, the unlikely pair encounter an array of colourful characters, and discover many things about themselves, and their place in the world. The film works primarily because of the strength of its two central performances, and the believability of their relationship - had Mike and Scott not been empathetic, the film would have crumbled early on. While Phoenix is the real highlight, Reeves gives an extremely charismatic performance as Scott, and William Richert also impresses as Bob Pigeon, a brilliantly eccentric **** figure who leads the gang of street hustlers who Mike and Scott associate with. I was not surprised to learn that writer/director Gus Van Sant loosely based his screenplay on the works of Shakespeare - at numerous points in the film, you certainly feel like you're watching a play, with its intricate dialogue presented in the form of monologues, and with the extreme flamboyance of some characters (particularly Bob and Udo Kier's Hans). While this is always entertaining, I found myself feeling that My Own Private Idaho would work better, and have far more impact on stage. While Van Sant's direction is always striking, it does sometimes get in the way of the story, and a stripped back stage production, free of unnecessary stylistic distractions would keep the characters and themes of this tale at the forefront of your mind. The film does drift a little in the middle section as well - while the scenes in Italy were necessary for Scott's character to evolve, Mike is given very little to do, and as he is the main focus of the story, this results in a slight loss of momentum. Van Sant redeems himself for this slight blip in a fine fashion shortly afterwards, though - the film's finale is powerful, moving and bittersweet. My Own Private Idaho is, for the most part, an extremely worthwhile, provocative viewing experience. Phoenix and Reeves both give the performances of their career, and their characters, though complex, are relatable and easy to root for on their life-changing journey. The difficult themes covered over the course of the film are handled by Van Sant sensitively, without ever appearing patronising, and he appears keen to provoke further thought and debate on the viewer's behalf. It's only a slightly unfocused middle section and slight over-emphasis on stunning visuals that detracts from the characters and their story. Generally, though, the film remains an immensely satisfying, very human affair. Full Review »