Friday, April 23, 2010

Benny and Joon

"Benny and Joon" (Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1993) When examining the career of Johnny Depp, one looks to the blockbusters: the "Pirates" movies, the many Tim Burton collaborations. But then there are the films that fall through the cracks—not unlike the characters in this film. For anyone doubting Depp's ability to not depend on his looks and create a compelling character, "Benny and Joon" is a revelation.

Filmed in
Spokane, Washinton, it tells the story of of an auto mechanic, the eponymous Benny (Aidan Quinn) taking care of his 1/3 eponymous but schizophrenic sister, Juniper (Mary Stuart Masterson). He's torn between his commitment to Joon and his desire to live a life, free of her responsibility. But, his sense of duty and brotherly protectiveness trap him into doing nothing else, even though he might be inadequate at the care-taking task.

By luck of the draw,
Sam (Depp) drops into their lives...literally; Joon wins him in a poker game. That plot development prat-falls "Benny and Joon" directly into "twee-ville," but Sam's addition to the cast arrives just in time to avoid it. Sam is a movie-freak, who knows every movie—the weirder the better—and models himself as the love-child of Buster Keaton and The Little Tramp. Eccentric, scruffy, but in a non-threatening way, Depp's head-tilting performance is just the right fizz to put in this Shirley Temple of a movie. You wonder what he's going to do next, and Depp is given enough ground to deliver a number of mute routines that are laugh-out-loud charming.

But, there are more joys to be had with guest-turns by
Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, CCH Pounder, Oliver Platt, and Dan Hedaya—the kind of movie where your attention is slapped every few minutes with a "They're in this?" It might get a little heavy for kids in the third act—"everybody's MAD at each other!"—but there's a satisfying resolve. And if you have a sister or daughter not in love with Johnny Depp yet, this one will do it.

"Benny and Joon" is a Chick-Flick that guys can enjoy.


Simon said...

Dude, I kind of love this movie. It's, I think, among the last of the non-obnoxious quirky comedies.

Yojimbo_5 said...

I didn't put this in the review, but I think the film-makers missed a chance by not having Sylvester Stallone play Benny. The part might have been seen as slightly less than sympathetic for The AStallion, but this is one those roles where I think he could have ROCKED it.