From scanning past verdicts I learned that I’m not the first to have an aversion to the theatrical scenes. I know Van Sant is borrowing from Henry IV
(I have Google too) but none of it worked for me. To be fair, I often can’t tell the difference between good and bad Shakespeare, but this felt stilted and it was at times a chore to sit through. I thought perhaps it was employed to provide a language of the street boys, but that really didn't make sense since they don’t speak that way amongst each other, only to Bob. It's a choice, it just didn’t work for me.
Keanu, he’s a liability. Although he is pretty, I'll give him that.
A small quibble, small because I appreciate the attempt, but the stylized sex just did not work for me. They’re not still images, but instead the actors are holding positions and sometimes you can see their muscles twitch and shake. I suppose this is employed to give a sense of calm, but it totally pulled me out of the movie. An interesting idea for certain, it just didn’t work for me. When I captured the images as screen shots, they looked really great, but in the film it just felt awkward to me. Props:
River Phoenix is terrific in this film. If you had asked me last week what I thought of him, I would have said he was a great talent, but the fact is I wouldn’t have known what I was basing that on. Turns out Running on Empty
is not where his reputation was formed. He does everything the script asks him to do: he’s funny (“You know your Math), he’s heartbreaking, and you can't take your eyes off him. How good is he in the campfire scene? My favourite scene in the movie by far.
Nobody would mistake My Own Private Idaho
for a comedy, but the film does show us some humour on occasion. Some of the johns early on are entertainingly loopy, the sequence with the talking beefcake magazines is great, and I love Mike’s reaction to Scott and Carmella canoodling.
I also really liked the sequence back in Portland where two kids address the camera and share their date stories. Watching these nondescript, marginalized teenage boys was a window into the next 15 years of Van Sant’s (arty) career.
It’s also all pretty and stuff. The landscapes and the home movies are all really effective and beautiful. I above stated my reservations about the linguistic style, however visually the film is an achievement. Some might charge the salmon stream image as a little too on the nose, but I thought it worked really well (I wish I had that screen shot).