Daniel’s review published on Letterboxd:
There's so much to love here. Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix give phenomenal performances as young street hustlers and their chemistry together bursts through the screen. I would have loved if this was more of a road movie, following these two characters on a journey to discover themselves. That is the core of the movie, and the part that I connect with the most.
But that is not all of this movie. The issue I have is that Gus Van Sant is trying to do too much, and the film ends up feeling segmented and strangely patched back together. The problems begin with the introduction of a character known as Bob - at this point we go full Shakespeare with unnatural and rigid dialogue that doesn't mesh at all with the tone set by the opening scenes. In the midst of this we get a strange robbery scene which adds nothing to the plot or characters in my opinion. All of this lasts for maybe half an hour before we leave that behind almost entirely and the film becomes more realistic and genuine again - but by then it's thrown me off in a bad way and beyond repair.
Maybe it's what makes this film so beloved, the artistic and creative lengths Van Sant stride to. And I'm not one for stifling creative vision, but in this particular instance I would have liked something more plain and simple, with a bigger focus on characters and their inner struggles. The campfire scene is easily the standout scene, such great delivery from Reeves and Phoenix. The campfire scene is what I wish this whole movie was.