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Benny & Joon (1993)

 -  Comedy | Drama | Romance  -  23 April 1993 (USA)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 41,036 users  
Reviews: 158 user | 30 critic

A mentally ill young woman finds her love in an eccentric man who models himself after Buster Keaton.

Director:

(as Jeremiah Chechik)

Writers:

(story), (story), 1 more credit »
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Title: Benny & Joon (1993)

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Sam
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...
...
...
Eric
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Dr. Garvey (as C.C.H. Pounder)
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Thomas
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Mike
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Randy Burch
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Claudia
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Mrs. Smail
Don Hamilton ...
UPS Man
Waldo Larson ...
Waldo
Irvin Johnson ...
Orderly
Shane Nilsson ...
Orderly
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Storyline

In a small town, an auto mechanic named Benny is devoted to taking care of his mentally ill sister, Joon, who can barely function alone in the real world despite being a talented artist. This relatively stable situation is shaken up when Benny is obliged in a poker game to welcome another player's relative, Sam, to his home for a few days. When Sam arrives, he quickly makes an impression with his quietly eccentric ways which emulate the antics of the great silent movie comedian, Buster Keaton. Without Benny's full knowledge, Sam and Joon find themselves drawn to each other to the fullest degree. However when Benny finds out, it creates a rift in the siblings as they struggle to accept their relationship is profoundly changing with the presence of this odd newcomer. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A romance on the brink of reality.

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for theme, a scene of mild sensuality and one use of harsh language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

23 April 1993 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Benny i Joon  »

Box Office

Gross:

$23,202,734 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sam tasting the paint was totally improvised by Johnny Depp. See more »

Goofs

Joon's bangs change length on her forehead several times throughout the film. See more »

Quotes

Sam: Tapioca?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Reinactors (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

PINETOP'S BOOGIE WOOGIE
Written and Performed by Pinetop Perkins (as Joe 'Pinetop' Perkins)
Courtesy of Antone's Records and Tapes
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
whimsical and affectionate, like its characters
3 August 2003 | by (Redmond, WA) – See all my reviews

BENNY & JOON seems, at its heart, to be an allegory about the different ways people can be out of touch with their fellow human beings, and the ways in which that dischord can be healed.

Benny owns an auto shop and takes care - both financially and physically - of himself and his sister Joon after the death of their parents. Other than weekly poker games, Benny's is a life of servitude, and this is the source of his isolation. He longs to be free to have other relationships, but is wracked by guilt at the idea of leaving Joon in anyone else's care.

Joon is an artist and is also mentally ill, a schizophrenic who has good and bad days and who depends on Benny to provide routine in her life. She has run out every housekeeper to be found in town, but cannot function without assistance and supervision. The film does a superb job of differentiating between mental illness (from which Joon clearly suffers) and stupidity (which is not a problem she faces).

Into their lives comes Sam, a cousin of one of Benny's poker buddies. Through a clever conceit, Sam moves in with Benny and Joon. Sam is undereducated, partially illiterate but a comedic genius who studies Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, knows catalogs of old movies, and has perfected the art form (kudos to Depp for the grace and conviction of this part of his performance). Like Keaton and the great silent film stars, Sam rarely speaks to communicate, and this combined with his illiteracy condemns him to be considered stupid as well. The great sneaker quality of Depp's performance is to show that Sam is always watching, always listening, and that he's no dim bulb by any stretch.

In Sam, Joon finds a person who makes her laugh, lives by his own rules, and cares for her deeply. In Joon, Sam finds a woman who appreciates him as he is, but he also knows a relationship with her is taboo. In a particularly revealing scene, he asks Benny, as one man to another, "How sick is she?" We know he is wrestling with his feelings for her, but Benny does not, and his offhanded answer comes across as callous and almost mocking.

While the handling of Sam and Joon's budding relationship may seem trite, and the humor applied to Joon's illness might seem cruel, in my experience the people who make those judgments know little about living day to day with a mentally ill - not to be confused with unintelligent - human being. There is deep and abiding truth in the idea that laughter and love can cure the incurable; people who seemed unable to function before can make great strides when they are shown trust and respect. And although the psychiatric issues were glossed over in this film, it has at its core an honest message of hope. One of my favorite films, for Depp and Masterson's outstanding performances and a true depiction of imperfect people on the journey to becoming whole. 9/10


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