My Own Private Idaho is the sort of film that really shouldn’t work. The movie apparently came about when writer/director Gus Van Sant was working on three separate scripts and then decided to merge them all together. The result is a movie that ought to be a mess. The tone and story jump about, some of its pretty random and surreal, and its Shakespearean pretentions are a bit bizarre.
However, it works. These disparate elements and tones come together, helped by an astonishing performance by River Phoenix as young hustler Mike. His character – an outsider living a marginal and disintegrating existence – is a reflection of the film itself. It ultimately becomes an unexpected masterclass of montage – where by placing seemingly disparate things side-by-side and throwing in unexpected imagery (not least the famous falling barn), it creates something unique and pulls you into a character and world in a way few other films have ever managed. [Read more…]