GUS VAN SANT
Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 1991. New Line Cinema. Screenplay by Gus Van Sant, based in part on the play Henry IV by William Shakespeare. Cinematography by John J. Campbell, Eric Alan Edwards. Produced by Laurie Parker. Music by Bill Stafford. Production Design by David Brisbin. Costume Design by Beatrix Aruna Pasztor. Film Editing by Curtiss Clayton.
Gus Van Sant’s first film after his critically acclaimed Drugstore Cowboy is this gritty, powerful drama that explores thlives of male prostitutes. Keanu Reeves plays the son of a rich politician who sells his body on the street to rebel against his father. His best friend is another hustler (River Phoenix) who has a deep love for Reeves that goes unrequited in between his various tricks. Phoenix’s performance as the narcoleptic boy is the best of his career and one of the best of the decade; anyone needing proof that a huge talent was lost by his untimely death a few years later need only take a look at this film. Van Sant’s direction gets points for realism but not much else, as his story lacks drama and tends to meander too much, particularly an entire sequence involving a big-time pimp that is lifted directly from Henry IV. What prompted much of the praise for the film when it was originally released was that a gay underground drama managed to attract big stars, but the thrill has since worn off.
The Criterion Collection: #277
Venice Film Festival Award: Best Actor (River Phoenix)