Gus Van Sant’s second feature is a clear example of an artist trying to find his voice. The film is part realistic drama, part contemporized version of Shakespeare’s HENRY IV as well as some flares of whimsy.
Mike Waters (River Phoenix, STAND BY ME) is a narcoleptic prostitute, who comes from a poor, turbulent family. His best friend is Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves, BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE), another male hustler, who isn’t really gay, but uses sex for its power and rebelliousness. Scott comes from a rich and powerful family and will inherit a fortune when he turns 21.
Mike’s story is told naturally, but Scott’s story is told through the poetry of Shakespeare. The tone swifts are abrupt and don’t mix well, creating a bit of a disjointed feel throughout the film. It keeps the audience at a distance. Scott is supposed to love his street mentor Bob (William Richert, THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK) more than his own father, but we never have an emotional connection to their relationship.