Benny and Joon is a 1993 comedy film directed by Jeremiah Chechik. Aidan Quinn plays Benny from the title, a small town auto mechanic, who when not taking care of cars, is busy taking care of his sister Joon, (played by Mary Stuart Masterson). He more or less is forced into this role, as his sister has a mental illness, forcing her to stay in her room painting for the majority of the day. After bringing her along for one of his poker sessions, Joon plays a game behind his back, and loses. The stakes required the loser to take one of Benny’s friend’s cousin Sam (Johnny Depp) home with them. Not wanting to back out of it, Benny takes on the burden that Joon gained through this poker game, and, after some time, the trio gets along fairly well together.
Now that I’ve gotten the story out of the way, let me get into whether or not the movie is any good. In short, it’s okay. Like its main character, the film jumps around a lot, leaving me unsure of what it really is trying to accomplish. There are serious times, funny times, and flat out insane times. This can work, but in this case, it doesn’t really. It actually comes off as boring more than anything else, with nothing important ever really going on. As a matter of fact, Johnny Depp’s antics are really the main thing that the film has going for it.
Johnny Depp’s performance really stands out, despite the fact that out of the three main characters, he is actually the least used. As he often does, Depp steals the scenes he is in, often either being quite humorous, or performing acts that make your jaw drop. That’s not to say that the other actors were bad, but they certainly were not as prominent. Aidan Quinn the most believable out of the characters however, playing the “normal person” type of character. He acquits himself nicely in the role, but he never really gets to do anything beyond what is expected of him. Mary Stuart Masterson plays her role quite well as well, but like her on-screen brother, isn’t as memorable as Johnny Depp’s character.
Despite the fact that the most memorable character is certainly Depp’s Sam, a lot of effort seemed to be put into characterizing Benny. He’s really the only character that gets any real development. It would appear there was a belief that making characters unpredictable was enough to relate them with the audience. The only reason this works for Sam is because of the fat that Depp really brings him to life. Joon ends up being quickly forgotten, even moments after watching the film. Apart from the fact that she has a mental illness, not much depth, development or insight into her character is given. This means that it is unlikely for you to care about her or the struggles that she is put through.
You can certainly see that attempts were made in getting you to relate with her character, She has her moments, from almost lighting fire to the house, to throwing a table tennis paddle through a vase of flowers, but these moments end up being spur of the moment, with nothing happening before or after to make you care. One moment in particular sets her off, sending her into a fit of anger, almost all of it directed at Benny. Yet, moments later, she becomes fine again. It is also in this moment, that I hoped some real drama would be injected into the film.
In this one scene, Joon lights fire to a picture of herself and Benny. She ends up putting this picture in the sink, believing that it will put itself out, having nothing flammable near it to continue burning. There is, however, a rag hanging down into the sink, which appears to be of just enough length to be caught in the fire. I honestly believed that this was foreshadowing a potentially touching scene, with Benny coming home, just in time to see his house engulfed in flames. Seeing as how this does not happen, it leaves me wondering why they put that rag there to begin with. Was it to give false hope or dread to people who noticed it? Was it just sloppy directing? I can’t say, but had the scene followed what it appeared to be foreshadowing, it probably would have ended up as a better product.
Benny & Joon ultimately isn’t really that good of a movie. Like I said earlier, it is okay, but it definitely could have been better. The fact of the matter is, it is too boring, and the laughs are too few and far between to make it all that enjoyable. Johnny Depp’s character is certainly memorable enough, and while the other actors do their jobs just fine, they don’t really get all that much development. In fact, Benny actually gets the most characterization, but since he plays an easy character to relate to, Sam still stands out, just due to some of the wacky things that he gets to do. The film isn’t funny enough to be a good comedy and it doesn’t have enough development to be a good drama. It ends up just being pretty boring, and involves characters you don’t care about.
Benny and Joon is more than a fun, feel good movie. It’s a inspiration to those who are living with mental illness. It’s a road map for family members who want to help but don’t know how to help in a way that doesn’t drag everybody down.
The Reviewer did include a summary of the movie and other important points such as the name of the director.
The Reviewer’s opinion is logical and supporting evidence is pulled from the movie to back it up. I can see where some people might not be able to care about Joon’s character since there is little development of it outside of her mental illness. Sometimes it takes someone who has strugged with mental illness themselves to be able to relate to a character who is defined by her mental illness: both in her mind and in society’s perception of her.
I, on the other hand, could really relate to Joon’s eccentricity, boredom that leads to disruptive behavior, and lack of faith in the beginning that she could learn to function as a responsible adult citizen. Joon just needs appropriate medical supervision on a long-term basis, appropriate living environment, and proper support from family.
Benny means well and always does the best he knows how to help Joon. However, he has held Joon back out of fear for her own safety and a disporportionate feeling of responsibility to her. Benny realizes this at the end. Then the three characters work together to find a living situation which is in the best interest of all three of them.
I found the movie to be heartwarming and inspiring.
Joon finds Sam: a creative, unique, funny partner who loves her for who she is. Sam is the bridge between Joon and the world who does not understand her or how to help her. Sam knows what accomidations Joon needs to be able to prosper in the world, and is able to get that through to Benny.
Joon is free to create her paintings and have her own living space with a man who is spirited and unique like she is. Sam is happy to feel like he belongs with a girlfriend and now has Benny for a good guy friend. Benny and Joon’s relationship will become closer. She is gaining confidence in her ability to live normally and he is able to have more freedom without feeling as if he is neglecting Joon. It is the ultimate in happy endings!