Gentlemen of the Shade: My Own Private Idaho by Jen Sookfong Lee
This is the second book in the “Pop Classic” series that I’ve read; the first being It Doesn’t Suck: Showgirls.
I love film criticism, especially when it’s as well written as this one. Jen Sookfong Lee does an excellent job of describing the context of when “My Own Private Idaho” was released in 1991–what was happening in Pop Culture and how gays and lesbians were being portrayed in films and on TV. She explains where the movie fit in with the Grunge scene, how it influenced fashion, and the risks River Phoenix and Kanequ Reeves when they starred in it.
My favourite parts of the book were when she compared the story of Mike and Scott her own story of growing up in an immigrant household and who the movie changed her perception of what one could expel from life. Her short biography about River Phoenix’s life was also really touching. Reading the book I was constantly reminded of learning of his death in the New York Times, and the morbid trek my roommate and I took to the Viper Room in LA to see where he died.
If you’re looking for a light read, I don’t know if this it. It’s a slim volume but there’s a lot of information in it. Parts of it read like a university thesis, but I was totally fine with that. If you take film seriously and watch movies over and over again to figure out what makes them great, I would recommend this book.