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Further Phoenix
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Stand By Me

The Mosquito Coast

A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon

Running on Empty

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

I Love You To Death

My Own Private Idaho

Harrison Ford

Kiefer Sutherland


Martha Plimpton

Tom Cruise

Judd Hirsch

Kevin Kline

Christian Slater


Julia Roberts

If You're Talking To Me, Your Career Must Be In Trouble

Joe Queenan


Rolling Stone


Laura Dern

Emily Lloyd
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français

If You're Talking To Me,
Your Career Must Be In Trouble

by Joe Queenan.
First published in 1994.

ISBN 0-330-33148-5 (Paperback, 286 Pages)

Referred to as a "chronicler of Hollywood foolishness," a "deflator of preposterous egos" and a "mean-spirited turnip," author Joe Queenan created this book in 1994 by bringing together a collection of twenty-four essays he wrote which were published in magazines such as Movieline and Rolling Stone from 1989 until 1992.

The article reprinted in chapter 16 is called "By the time I get to Phoenix, you'll be writhing or young gums" - and if you think that title makes little sense, just wait until you read the essay itself....

As one would expect from a person named River Phoenix, River Phoenix does not look like he grew up on the north side of Chicago, the west side of Philadelphia, or the south side of anywhere. Starting out as a rapscallion (Stand by Me), progressed to a heartthrob (A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon), Phoenix has lately been cast as a mildly dweebish teen in a series of relatively descent films (The Mosquito Coast, Running on Empty, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). The problem is: Unless you're looking for him, you hardly notice that he's there. He's a moody little a guy who frets and frowns, and though he seems to choose his roles with some care, he's basically like wallpaper: pretty, expensive wallpaper.

Well, if nothing else, it's refreshing to see River being talked of in the present tense and is a little reminder, if only for a few moments, of how things used to be. Such reverie is of course hopelessly spoilt by the attitude of the text. The article, published in 1990, is actually a case-by-case evaluation of seven stars and the author pours scorn on each of them in turn: Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Laura Dern, Emily Lloyd, Christian Slater and is particularly vicious towards River's Stand By Me co-star, Kiefer Sutherland.

ISBN 0-786-88460-6 (Paperback, 286 Pages)

Putting our questions about whether the author pays any attention at all during the screening of a movie, the author's inane ramblings about River continue thus:

In both The Mosquito Coast and Running on Empty, he is completely overshadowed by overbearing dads (Harrison Ford, Judd Hirsch), and in both films he is completely overshadowed by Martha Plimpton, a real corker. In the more recent I Love You to Death, he plays a goofy zit, no better or worse than the rest of the cast, with the exception of Kevin Kline, who's both better and worse. River Phoenix is a mildly talented actor whose name has written a check that his body can never cash.*

Confused and unable to quite figure out what point the author is trying to get across, the prospect of a footnote in this 1994 book raised hopes that perhaps some kind and touching reference or tribute was about be made about the rest of River's career and his untimely passing.

Fat chance....

* Since this essay was written, River Phoenix has appeared in My Own Private Idaho, in which he portrays a Seattle-based, narcoleptic male hustler who has a habit of falling asleep in the middle of the highway. Phoenix was quite believable in the role, as was the highway.

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