It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Drama thrives on the weaknesses of its characters, but what can we make of a hero who suffers from narcolepsy? At precisely those moments when he is called to rise to the occasion, he goes to sleep.
He misses most of the crucial developments in his own life, and must depend on the kindness of strangers even to pull him out of the middle of the road.
Mike Waters, the young drifter played by River Phoenix in Gus Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho," is a narcoleptic. To those who do not understand the disorder, it appears that he must be on drugs, or mentally deficient, or from another planet. His condition has given him a certain dreamy detachment; there is no use getting too deeply involved in events you may end up sleeping through. Mike works as a male prostitute, and it goes without saying that narcolepsy is not an asset in his line of work.
Watching the film, I was reminded of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, in which Raskolnikov, the murderer of the old lady, suffers from epileptic seizures. He has some of the same moods and traits as Mike Waters does here: Both live in unreal worlds, detached from the ordinary progress of time by their conditions. In a sense, their own lives are so elusive that what they do to the lives of others is not very meaningful. Mike is like a holy fool or a clown, and his only real attachment is to Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves), another hustler.