Benny and Joon is a rom-com - sort of. Unlike most rom-coms it does not have Jennifer Anniston or Hugh Grant. It does not have off-kilter jokes and the sense of money-making pulp. It does have heart. It does have two slightly quirky outsiders who find love. It has Johnny Depp, it has Buster Keaton-style slapstick, and it has schizophrenia.
Before Silver Linings Playbook ever crossed the desk of a film executive, Benny and Joon was tackling the thorny issue of love and mental illness - and doing a much better job of it. Joon - a schizophrenic, is being looked after by her older, slightly uptight, brother Benny. To be fair, Benny only really cares about her happiness - but he does occasionally act like a bit of a douche in the process. Enter Sam (Johnny Depp,) a long-haired stranger with a bowler hat, cane, and waistcoat. One of life's oddballs, as a result of a series of slightly contrived but still fairly believable events, Sam moves in with Benny and Joon.
This is light-hearted without ignoring the fact that Joon is genuinely ill - in a couple of incidents frighteningly so. But this avoids becoming overly-maudlin, serious, or introspective. And there's always Johnny Depp's amazing acting skills to lift it out of any such situation. Sam doesn't say much, but he has incredible comic timing, a sweet heart, a love of Joon, and cooking skills which will brighten your day (I want to make mashed potatoes that way, I really do.)
If you're looking for your typical girl-meets-boy Hollywood romance, you may find this a little out-there, but I assure it's still worth giving a shot. If you're looking for something a bit different, this is for you.
The film called Benny and Joon came out in 1993 and it stars Johnny Depp, Mary Stuart Masterson, Aidan Quinn and Julianne Moore. It is a romantic comedy and is well worth a watch.
I watched the film on the tv so this is just a review of the film itself. The story is about a man called Benny Pearl (Quinn) who lives with and looks after his mentally sick sister Joon (Masterson). He is having problems looking after her as he needs someone to be with her all the time as he fears for her safety when left alone, but Joon doesn't get on with any of the house keepers he employs to keep an eye on her and he is at his wits end. Her doctor is trying to convince him that the right thing would be to have her placed in a home where she will get constant care but Benny needs time to think about it.
One day they find they have acquired a new lodger, namely Sam (Depp) who they win in a poker game. He is the odd ball cousin of one of Benny's friends. When he comes to stay Joon's life changes forever as she finds his funny ways so appealing and they strike up a romance.
In the mean time Benny himself is falling for Ruthie (Moore), the woman who works in the local cafe and tries to get a romance going for himself not knowing that the other couple are getting on so well.
The story was really nice, it had a beautiful way of showing how someone with mental difficulties has just the same emotions and needs as anyone else. I thought Johnny Depp was fabulous as Sam. He was so gentle with Joon and you could see how much he cared for her. He was brilliantly funny with his antics that were a lot like those of Buster Keaton. Mary Stuart Masterson was also brilliant as Joon, she played the part so well, you could really believe the pain she had gone through and the emotions she was feeling through the film. Aidan Quinn and Juliane Moore were also good in their parts but the whole show was down to Johnny Depp's performance. His sequence in the park was absolutely brilliant and I have read that he did it all himself without stunt men or replacement actors.
I enjoyed this film so much I am going to look out for the dvd as I would like to see it again and I think my daughter would like it too as she is a Johnny Depp fan and the story would appeal to her as well.
The film was Directed by Jeremiah S Chechik and it runs for 98 minutes. It has a rating of 12 in the UK.
Benny and Joon is a surprisingly good little comedy film that is well worth hunting down as it is an entertaining watch. Benny and Joon are brother and sister and Joon who is the younger of the two is mentally handicapped so Benny always has to care for and look out for his sister. When Joon loses a bet with one of their friends Mike, Joon has to look after his cousin Sam.
This is a film all about relationships as at the same time Benny is desperate to start a relationship with Ruthie however this is made difficult as he feels that he cannot abandon Joon to survive on her own as she has a tendency to do rather strange things that could put her safety at risk.
One of the attractions of this film is that Sanm is played be the delightfully sexy Johnny Depp, the future father of my babies, and he is excellent in this film as he builds up a child like relationship with Joon who is played by Mary Stuart Masterson, she is equally convincing in what could have been a difficult role to handle. Her older brother Benny is played by Aiden Quinn while Ruthie is played by Julianne Moore.
I found this film to be a little slow to get going but it soon develops into a delightful gentle comedy film with a few smiles along the way and some lovely acting. At times the film is tender and it handles the mental illness of Joon reasonably well.
You can purchase a copy of the film from Amazon for £3.99.
The title is a great line from the film!
Can you believe it? Benny and Joon is now 17 years old. That means I was just 2 ½ when it was released! Feel old?
Before today I'd never seen this film, although heard much about its great reputation. But lately, I've been gradually coaxing out past Johnny Depp films from the lovely Amazon (the website, not the rainforest - it's not quite that good a film!) and up cropped Benny and Joon.
Benny and Joon are brother and sister. Benjamin (a few years Juniper's senior) cares for her as she has an undefined mental illness.
Joon's eccentricity is rather exaggerated at the start of the film, with scenes such as the young lady randomly directing traffic whilst wearing a snorkel. I felt this was more of a representation of mental illness than a realistic interpretation.Thankfully though, as the film progresses Joon's crazy behaviour feels much more set in reality, allowing the audience to warm to the character.
The story becomes much more intriguing when Mike (a friend of Benny) wins a bet with Joon. She must look after his cousin, Sam.
Sam's presence introduces a new dynamic to the film. Sam seems to enrich Benny's life and, more importantly, he establishes a genuine connection with Joon.
Meanwhile, Benny is trying and mostly failing to enter into a relationship with Ruthie, due to the great responsibility he feels for Joon.
It is really quite rewarding to watch this film unfold and watch how Joon develops, for better or worse.
As Sam, Johnny Depp has a very sincere and honest quality and portrays his innocence beautifully. His performance is utterly convincing and the relationship between him and Joon is stunning to watch. The pair have a certain childlike naivety that is hard to recreate, but these two pull it off whilst retaining the chemistry Sam and Joon have.
Sam is definitely kooky, but not so much insane which I found helped me to trust in the character. Depp subtly shows Sam's fear and insecurities, but there are also moments of great fun and joy. This is often shown through physical comedy with finely crafted routines that made me laugh out loud.
Overall, an impressive performance that I really cannot fault.
Joon is played by Mary Stuart Masterson, who has a natural beauty, reminiscent of Jennifer Anniston. I did feel she could have got her pearly whites stuck into the role a little more, but I would be lying if I said she was inadequate in anyway.
Like Sam, she has such a youthful, naive nature, but Joon is also mentally ill - though it is constantly questionable as to what extent.
I felt Masterson definitely improved as the film progressed at the content improved. Her determination and pride was played well against her inner struggle, therefore creating an interesting depth to Joon.
Aiden Quinn (who has countless films coming up this year) was perfect for the role of Benny. I definitely understood his inner conflict in making decisions about his Sister's future and was relieved when it all resolved itself at the end.
The most noticeable thing about Aiden Quinn has to be his eyes! He uses these powerful tools to portray emotion, convincingly flicking from friendly and calm to sinisterly livid in less than a heartbeat.
The last noticeable performance from my perspective came from Ruthie - Benny's love interest - played by Julianne Moore.
As a viewer I gave her instant attention from her first scene, where seems different and quietly flirtatious.
The character of Ruthie intertwines with all three of the main roles and we start to see different sides of her, although not all are particularly exciting! But sure, she is certainly right for the part and gives everything that is required of her.
Benny and Ruthie's relationship seems insignificant in comparison to the thrill of Sam and Joon's, but I guess it's not easy to create chemistry from nothing. Maybe the casting director should have found a couple that really worked together...
Something else worthy of a mention was the set of Benny and Joon's house. Someone had clearly spent a long, long time focusing on every tiny detail - from stacks of Joon's paintings to random and weird puppets hanging up. I would have loved to of had a wonder round that house!
The DVD obviously lacks today's standard of picture quality, but I thought it rather charming actually. The film itself is pretty short by today's standards and did manage to hold my attention throughout.
The soundtrack was pretty good, my favourite being the lively 'I'm gonna be (500 miles) by The Proclaimers, which both opened and closed the film.
If you can get past the slightly dull first twenty minutes, where they clumsily go about setting up the circumstances then this is a truly delightful film.
The story is interesting and very well acted, but it perhaps lacks unpredictability or a twist to the tale which would convince me it was worth 5 stars!
I enjoyed this film so much more than I expected and therefore would absolutely recommend it!
note: also appears on The Student Room and Flixster
I must confess that I'm not quite as enamoured with Benny and Joon - I appreciate its mix of mature elements and playfulness, mostly Johnny Depp's turn as a man who has styled himself on Buster Keaton. My real gripe with the film is how self-consciously cool it attempts to be, with Depp's character trying to appear naturalistic despite the fact that, of course, nobody in their right mind would ever, ever act like this.
The film revolves around Benny, and his sister Joon, who is a schizophrenic and thus unable to live on her own. She has also driven away all of the psychiatrists charged with helping her, and as a result, she is making not only her own life, but that of her brother, a misery. However, through a friend of his, Benny meets Sam, a huge film buff who dresses and acts like a modern day Buster Keaton, with seemingly boundless energy and exuding a certain charm thanks to Depp's performance. He and Joon hit it off quite well - his relentless energy and her mood disorder, in some strange way, fit together quite well indeed.
However, convincing everyone that they are a solid fit is not easy, and thus it becomes a case of the least likely solution being the one that works - they are two of a kind, and fit in a way that science or law cannot particular quantify. There is a genuine, heartfelt story here, and whilst I do admire its execution mostly, I feel that Depp's antics, by no fault of his own, do somewhat hamper the emotional plausibility of the film.
A well-acted and competently-made dramedy is, to its detriment, overstuffed with self-indulgent quirkiness, which distracts from the serious subject matter beneath.
Im not a fan of Rom-coms but I am a huge admirer of Johnny Depp as an actor. This has to be one of my favourite films.
It has the most bizarre story line but it works so well. This film will warm the coldest of hearts.
Without going into too much detail the film is based on a girl in her early twenties who is emotionally disturbed, she struggles to cope with day to day life and retreats into her own little fantasy world. Her older brother takes care of her and obviously he finds it hard and his love life has suffered.
I will not spoil to the story line too much only to say that she wins Johnny Depp in a game of poker and he becomes part of their life. Its based on the relationship between brother and sister, sister and Johnny and the brothers love interest. It's a fantastic story line, so original.
So many funny moments like making a toated sanwhiches with an iron, don't really want to spoil it if you haven't seen it.
Great acting as always with Johnny Depp. You must see this film even if you are not keen on Rom-coms
Warsaw. Minus 7. Full scale blizzard blowing outside - didn't even think about venturing out. We had hoped to watch the advertised TV series, 'Kingdom', on Polski TV but as is often the case, the schedule had been changed and the alternatives were dire. So I came to the conclusion that it must be Johnny time and time to watch one of my precious unseen Johnny Depp films that my son had bought me for Xmas. STRESS! I thought the DVD was going to jam as a disturbing buzzing noise eminated from the DVD player. We turned up the volume and let The Proclaimers rowdily lead us into the film.........
The story centred on Juniper Pearl (Mary Stuart Masterson), Joon for short, a smart and talented, but emotionally unbalanced young girl, who is cared for by her irrepressible, seemingly unselfish car repairing brother, Benjamin (Adam Quinn), or Benny, ever since their parents had died in a fatal car accident. Joon paints and reads, has a passion for fire and nudging her housekeepers into retirement as Benny works his car clinic, plays poker with his friends for bizarre stakes including spare parts and gives up any hope of a serious relationship because he has no idea of how Joon is going to fit in.
The natural order and occasionally cliched creakiness of this life is suddenly shattered however, when at a poker game, Joon loses her hand and wins her opponent's cousin Sam (Johnny Depp), a beguiling and whimsical misfit, who at 26 can't read, spends all day polishing plastic forks and sometimes sits in a tree, stays up all night watching old movies on TV and when he does sleep, it's under the sink.
He, of course, charms his way into Joon's heart with his silent comedy capers, does the housework and listens to the rock music blasting from the radio even when it incurs Joon's wrath. That's enough for Joon to throw him out, as she puts it,' for cleaning the house. Naturally, he returns with Benny's blessing and Sam's promise to look out for his sister.....
Benny and Joon is based on a screenplay by Barry Berman and Leslie McNeil. Berman was suitably qualified to pen the story as he had been a graduate of Ringing Brothers and Barnum & Bailey's highly competitive college in Florida. He had earned his apprenticeship in the world-renowned circus, and had loved watching Buster Keaton's and Charlie Chaplin's silent comedy classics in between performances under the big top. More importantly, it was what influenced him to create the character Sam for Benny and Joon.
The screenplay came to the attention of Susan Arnold, the producer, who had previously worked with Imagination Workshop, a Californian-based arts programme that worked with underpriviliged and disenfranchised people as well as with psychiatric patients. Obviously her experience with the workshop must have peaked her desire to make a movie about someone who had a little harder time in life than most of us. It is one of the themes that lies at the heart of the movie. Or you are led to believe so.
I suppose some viewers might view Johnny's role as Sam as a 'clowning minder' to a mentally ill girl but that's not how I see it. Joon is disturbed but I would say more traumatised than mentally ill. Sam is a misfit and wants to understand her strange feelings amd emotions. As well as having his own problems of trying to fit into society he genuinely wants to try and understand Joon's behavioural problems. The film is shows us how two people who are outcasts in different ways learn to live together and get on.
The role of Sam looks like it has been taken out of a Buster Keaton comedy. Depp is very emotionally expressive, doing what seems to be so little but yet so effective. He is also physically involved with the character. He was coached for the role by an on-set mime artist, magician and silent film buff, Dan Kamin, who was recruited to coach and choreograph the comedy routines of the screen legends that were all part and parcel of Sam's character. I loved the slapstick part of the movie. I know I always praise Depp for his craft but he is one of the best and seems to be able to turn his hand to anything. The role is played in a delightful way. He tenderly reinforces the role of eccentric outsider which has become his province. He is curiously serious - and not so much simple minded and innocent as in Edward Scissorhands but just as naturally charming. This very young, tousled haired and baggy trosered Johnny Depp will steal your hearts.
Adam Quinn was the director's final choice as the protective, straight-laced brother. He is an actor I am not familiar with but I can't imagine anyone else playing the role of Benny as well. He carries the whole world on his shoulders and his character is very much a straight man. He becomes so obsessed with looking after his sister that eventually he becomes afraid to actually confront any relationships of his own. She becomes his crutch to lean on and the roles are reversed.
Mary Stuart Masterson, of Fried Green Tomatoes fame, played the part of Joon and she was exceptional. The way she played the character whose confidence was shaken by the confusion she lived in every day was very believable. Her eyes were everywhere and I love the scene where she is in the passenger seat of the car, wearing her crash helmet, and as they are slowly driving through the town she comes across a chaplinesque figure standing in a tree. She slowly lifts her head and both their eyes meet. You are not sure whether she is horrified, amused or bemused. She also excels in throwing a tantrum and having fits of hysteria. I was very impressed with her acting.
The supporting cast are very good, especially Julianne Moore as the waitress, Ruthie, Benny's would be love interest and the guys who are Benny's poker pals are a good bunch of ginky guys who like a laugh and a joke but at the ame time want Benny to live his own life.
Although there is nothing outstanding to speak of, the photography is good in the way it captures the lights and shades of the sleepy town. There are some colourful shots of the train at the beginning of the film which illustrates the beauty and diversity of the country. The interior shots of the house are very much in the vein of Edward Hopper (the artist) and this is something I think the Americans do very well. They really know how to create the ambience of a living space with angle shots and soft, sultry hues of colour. I fell in love with the ramshackle house straight away and I do love those big turquoise American fridges. I also liked the fact that for most of the time there was a quiet, calmness about the film which is what I would imagine those towns in the far north west of America to feel like.
Things to Look Out For
*Revolutionary ways to tackle housekeeping and an inventive way to make toasties!*
This is something I don't generally include in my reviews but there are lots of good lines in this film so here are my two favourites;
Joon - You are out of your tree.
Sam - It's not my tree!
Sam (sat fully clothed in the bath) - How sick is she?
Benny - She's plenty sick. Now, listen to me, I've been doin' some thinkin' -
Sam - Because, you know, it seems to me that, I mean, except for being a litle mentally ill, she's pretty normal
This is something else I usually don't mention but I really liked some of the songs in this film. The opening track is sung by The Proclaimers - those two bespectacled, guitar thrashing, oatcakes from Bonnie Scotland. I can't say I ever was a fan of this pair of ginks but the song, 'I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)', actually works as the opening number. The other two tracks , 'Have a Little Faith in Me', by John Hiatt is a cool number and fits in well with the scene although when I heard the track I was convinced it was Van Morrisson, and my favourite is the very last track where we have good old Joe Cocker belting out his gravel as he sings 'Can't Find My Way Home.'
I always think that when you end up singing songs from a film a couple of days after viewing, it is a good sign of an impressive soundtrack.
This film was never going to be a box office hit even with Depp as the star. Although in retrospect I am not sure if he was the star. I think all the three main characters are exceptional and really gel together. It is a good old fashioned type of film where there are a lot of laughs as well as sadness and beauty. Basically, it is a sensitive, love story on two levels, firstly, a romance between two oddities who meet and fall in love but also about a brother and sister with an over-dependant relationship learning to have the courage to live their own lives without losing what they already have. There are circumstances that are universal in the story, such as learning how much you can love someone and still allow them to be free. Benny and Joon is a delightful movie; a fable that will touch your heart.
How can I not recommend it?!
I brought this film for the sole reason that Johnny Depp was in it! But I fell in love with the film after I had watched it!
Its a beautiful and inspirational story of two very extraordinary people falling in love. Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson) plays a mentally ill woman who is being faced with being put in a home by her older brother who is at the end of his tether. That is until she finds Sam (Johnny Depp) and they fall in love! But Joons brother has something to say about the situation and understandably goes off the rails. Sam tries to sort things out but doesn't fully understand the situation himself and things go very wrong. Can they be together despite Joon's illness?
It's hilarious, Johnny Depp is amazing, although I could be said to be rather bias, and there are fantastic performances from a great cast. A joy to watch and a film that will stay with you for a very long time. Perfect to make you smile.
Benny & Joon is a very sweet romantic comedy starring not only the brilliant and famous Johnny Depp but also the supremely talented though far less well-known actress Mary Stuart Masterson. Add in Aidan Quinn and Juliette Moore, throw in William H Macey and Oliver Platt for good measure, and you have a cast well able to handle a surprising but excellent script that results in one of the most pleasing films ever made.
(Advance warning - this was written on another site as an entry to what on Ciao we would call a "Challenge" - in this case, showing how the quotes explain the movie - that's why there are so many quotes in this review. Unfortunately since on Ciao you can't use HTML it's not quite as easy to separate the quotes from the main text, so I hope it doesn't make it too difficult to read! I've separated each quote from the main text via a line break.)
Benny (Quinn) is havng a bit of a mid-life crisis. His sister Joon (Masterson) is afflicted by some kind of mental problem and his whole life is basically devoted to caring for her. (Both of there parents are dead.) He's supposed to be finding out about a Care Home for her to go to but won't let go. It's not having a good effect on his life.
" Ruthie: Be serious. Benny: I am. Ruthie: Really? Benny: I'm always serious. I'm too serious. "
For her part, Joon goes through housekeepers very quickly...
"Joon: She was given to fits of semi-precious metaphors.
Benny: She's a housekeeper, Joon, not an English professor."
Then one day she plays poker and ends up winning something she hadn't expected
"Benny: You can't bet a human being!
Joon: You can't throw him out, I won him! "
Enter Sam (Depp) - not all that sane himself:
"Sam: I'm Sam.
Benny: So I hear... I'm Benny.
Sam: With an 'n'?
Benny: Yea two of 'em... this is Joon.
Sam: With an 'n'?
Joon: One... You're out of your tree.
Sam: It's... not my tree"
and partial to imitating Buster Keaton:
"Joon: Did you have to go to school for that?
Sam: No, no, I got thrown out of school for that.
Soon Sam and Joon find they have something in common:
"Sam: You don't like raisins?
Joon: Not really.
Joon: They used to be fat and juicy and now they're twisted. They had their lives stolen. Well, they taste sweet, but really they're just humiliated grapes. I can't say I am a big supporter of the raisin council.
Sam: Did you see those, those raisins on TV? The ones that sing and dance and stuff?
Joon: They scare me.
Sam: Yeah me too
Joon: It's sick. The commercial people they make them sing and dance so people will eat them.
Sam: It's a shame about raisins.
Sam: Yeah. Do you like avocados?
Joon: They're a fruit you know.
Sam: Ruthie, do you got any avocados?"
and Sam has a very pragmatic viewpoint about Joon's condition:
"Sam: How sick is she?
Benny: Oh, she's plenty sick.
Sam: Oh. Because you know, it seems to me that, aside from being a little mentally ill, she's pretty normal."
In between all of this, Benny is becoming romantically attached to local waitress and former actress Ruthie (Moore) - but because of looking after Joon, he "doesn't really have time for a relationship". The burgeoning relationship between Joon and Sam is also beginning to cause him sleepless nights, though he does start to soften in his attitude to Sam and has big plans for him. Then all hell breaks loose
Quinn handles the loving but rather over-protective role of Benny superbly, with the eccentric performances of Depp and Masterson it would be easy to overlook him but he acts as the perfect foil for their antics. His slightly smothering nature is understandable given what he's been through in life. Depp and Masterson are absolutely superb, and although originally first choices, I don't think anyone could possibly have filled their roles better. (And apparently Depp did all his own stuntwork in the scene in the park where he does an entire Burster Keaton sketch.) There are moments of pure comedy that reduce you to moments of helpless laughter, such as Depp performing a dancing bread rolls routine (apparently taken from Charlie Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" of 1925) and his mimicking of Ruthie's death scene from her best-known (or only?) film have to be seen to be believed. Moore is effective and looks quite stunning. Again her normality is a perfect foil for the more eccentric characters. Oh yeah, and Sam is a very god cook but his methodology is somewhat different (cheese sandwiches via ion press and mashed potato with the help of a tennis racket!!)
"Joon: He can really cook, can't he?
Benny: Yeah, although for grilled cheese, I might use the wool setting.
Joon: That's what I told him.
Benny: Really? What did he use?
Joon: Rayon. Silk would have been too soggy. Cotton would have...
Benny: Would have burned it.
Joon: Right. Fortunately, he consulted me before giving it steam. I was four square against it."
"Joon: Some cultures are defined by their relationship to cheese."
It's not just funny with a good cast though, this movie has everything. Despite the humour it deals with serious issues with sensitivity, it has a brilliant soundtrack (apparently "I Will Walk 500 Miles" by the Proclaimers was included at Masterson's request), and it really leaves you feeling very cheerful indeed. In a word, wonderful. Due to some of the content and brief language, it's not really suiteable for young children. (The "12" rating is pretty much spot on.)
Length: 98 minutes
Rating: 12 (UK), PG (USA)
Benny & Joon was nominated for a Golden Globe (Johnny Depp - Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy / Musical) and a further 3 nominations in the MTV Movie Awards (Johnny Depp again, the Proclaimers for Best Song in a Motion Picture, and Johnny Depp / Mary Stuart Masterson for Best On-Screen Duo.)
(For the record, the winners of those awards were Robin Williams for Mrs Doubtfire, Michael Jackson for "Will You Be There" in Free Willy, Robin Williams again, and Harrison Ford / Tommy Lee Jones for "The Fugitive".)
Sam takes the "Help Wanted" sign from the window of a video store and walks to manager.
He looks at the manager and says: "I wanna help..."
(I just thought that summed up the whole atmosphere of this surreal and wonderful film!)
Amazon.co.uk don't have it new on video (you're fine if you want the DVD new though), you can get it on the Marketplace from £2.60. It should be widely available in most decent-sized video stores despite not being as well known as it should be.
You know, I've always loved Johnny Depp's films. Not just because he's so very droolsome (if that's not a word, it should be), but because he's simply an excellent actor. And his little offering in "Benny & Joon" proves the point to me yet again. I wouldn't say this is his best role, but it's certainly (for me anyway) one of his most compelling performances. I'll explain why in a moment. The story centres around Benny and Joon (of course). Benny is a mechanic and a very tired one at that. The reason being he also looks after his younger sister, Joon. Benny takes his responsibility to his younger, but still adult, sister very seriously, refusing to put her into a home. Instead they go through housekeeper after housekeeper trying to find the right one for Joon's special needs. It's not made entirely clear in the film exactly what's wrong with Joon, but I found I didn't really need to know. Suffice it to say that she'll put on her diving mask, grab herself a table tennis bat, and wander into the road to direct the traffic at a moment's notice. She wants to be taken seriously, yet she can't recognise why her brother can't do that. Where does our Johnny Depp come in? At a poker game actually. When Benny is playing poker at a friend's house the bets get bigger and bigger, until his friend bets the relative he has staying with him. He views him as just one big nuisance, so wants to palm him off on anyone who'll let him. Benny's the one who lets him, and although it's Joon who actually loses the game, it's Benny who accepts that a bet is a bet, and so they take Sam home with them. This is where the story really starts. The arrival of Sam in the home is one that turns their lives upside down. Joon has convinced Benny that they don't need a housekeeper anymore because Sam is there. He cleans, he keeps Joon amused, an
d he's generally a very likable person. But something seems odd about him. This is never explained either, and when I've watched the film I've often wondered why exactly Sam is the way he is. The only thing we do find out is that he's dyslexic. This could be the only reason he's so 'eccentric', but it's never explored fully in the film. Sam dresses like Buster Keaton. He walks like Buster Keaton. He rarely speaks either. At one point he even puts on an impromptu mime show in the middle of the park, the routine being very Keaton/Chaplinesque. It's an excellent sequence, one to really watch, and the one which sticks out most in my mind after watching the film a few times. So you know the basic story, and you know it's a romance because it's in the romance category ;) Johnny Depp as Sam, as I said at the beginning, is excellent. He had me hooked whenever he was in a scene. The quietness of the character, the quirkiness, everything, kept me enthralled. His eyes were able to tell the story without him even opening his mouth, and that's what I love about this performance. What else can I say? He was simply excellent. Mary Stuart Masterson plays Joon, and again this is a great performance. She plays the innocence of the character perfectly throughout the film. The more 'unusual' moments in Joon's everyday life are played realistically, and certainly not overdone at any time. Even the tantrums were believable. Aidan Quinn plays Benny. Yet another great choice for the film, he never overplays the turmoil at facing the prospect of having to send his sister to a home, and the 'bonding' moments are never too mushy. All three actors play with and against each other perfectly. The affection shows where it's supposed to, as does the rivalry between characters. The supporting cast is a good one too, although for the most part the
film is held together by the three main roles, the supporting actors are all excellent too. A special mention now for Julianna Moore as Ruthie, the waitress in the cafe in which Sam makes two bread rolls dance on the counter (watch it and see). It's obvious she's gonna be the love interest for Benny right from the start, and the two work well together throughout the film. As you'd expect from a movie of this type, it's very polished, with an almost golden tint to the picture (maybe it was just me that saw this, or maybe my TV needs adjusting ;)). The director, Jeremiah S. Chechik, did an excellent job making this feel-good movie actually feel good, and it's one that gets viewed every so often if for nothing else, for Depp's performance as Sam. This film does have a PG rating, though I really do think younger than adolescents wouldn't 'get it', mainly due to the focus of Joon's mental illness. The message in the film that 'love can conquer all, including mental illness' is a difficult one to accept at times, but simply sitting back and watching this film for entertainment's sake is the best thing you can do. Don't try to analyse it, just enjoy it. Relax back, cry where you need to, but chuckle your way through most of it. Oh, and look out for Depp mashing potatoes with a tennis raquet... simplicity works wonders sometimes ;)
Longing for a romantic Hollywood film that will make your heart leap but not have you reaching for the sick bucket? Try Benny & Joon. Few mainstream US films manage to walk the thin line between emotion and schmaltz, but here is one film that pulls it off admirably. In the wrong hands the concept of marrying love and mental illness could have been a disaster but, as with the low-budget British film Some Voices, Benny & Joon manages to extract genuine humour and warmth from the subject. As the brother and sister of the title, the relationship between Aidan Quinn and Mary Stuart Masterson is central to the story, Benny desperately trying to keep home and job together while looking after the sick Joon. Their lives take an unexpected turn with the arrival of Sam, a brilliantly comic turn by Johnny Depp, as gradually the characters learn that the happiness that all thought beyond them is within their grasp. Depp adds yet another character to his liturgy of slightly odd outsiders but plays it with such panache, this time drawing heavily on Buster Keaton, that you cannot help but fall for him. Indeed, there is not a single character here that you would not wish well. On the DVD: The usual scene selection and a very clear audio track, given the film's musical moments a huge boost. Few will probably be able to resist The Proclaimers' "(I'm Gonna Be) 500 Miles" which opens the film. Excellent picture quality too. --Phil Udell