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I really identify with this movie, and with Joon. I myself am mentally ill
(in fact, disabled by it). I don't think it matters that her mental
illness is unspecified... so many mental illnesses overlap in real life, and
often DO go unspecified even if the person is counselling.
I am mentally ill and (as birds of a feather flock together) know many people who are also mentally ill. As for it being representation of what it's really like to be or live with a mentally ill person, you can't really lump such an experience together. Mentally ill people vary just as much as "normal" people do.
Some of the details in this movie are great. They depicted Joon as a rounded character, a creative, sensitive, intelligent person. This is often the case with mentally ill people. I love the eccentricities of the characters. I think the details, writing, and everything about this movie are just wonderful. I've seen it many times.
Most people who I know who have seen this movie adore it. I think it's great.
I first saw this movie with almost no expectations. Now I own it and have
watched it more times than I can remember.
I have heard that this movie caught a lot of flak about not being "realistic" about mental illness, and not providing a diagnosis for Joon, etc. I think that it is more realistic for the "average" person with a mental illness than any other movie I have seen on the topic. There was no theme of "being institutionalised forever" and there was no unrealistic expectation of a "cure".
The character of Sam put it best when he said "Aside from being a little mentally ill, she's pretty normal." I think that's the best quote I've heard in a movie, on that particular topic.
I also think there is a reason for there being no stated diagnosis of Joon. She personifies those of us who can't get on with the things we want to do in life because of a mental illness and treatment getting in the way. She does it very well, down to the mannerisms. If she were to be labeled, say, obsessive-compulsive, or post-traumatic stress disorder, or schizophrenic, or bipolar, then the universality would be taken out of it and it would suddenly only apply to people with one certain label.
This movie did wonders for my family. Upon watching it, we all said "That's us!" and learned to laugh at ourselves and the situations we got into. It offered me a lot of hope -- what more could I want than to find an understanding and eccentric friend to love and move into my own apartment, away from the mess of hospitals and doctors? It still makes me laugh every time I see it, and "Joon" has become a household word... I recommend this to anyone, particularly anyone with a mental illness, and their families -- it might lighten things up, but it certainly doesn't skip over the bad parts.
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
I doubt that I can add much to all the good things said about this film. Acting is superb, as is writing and direction, which keep the story from ever seeming "cute". It is never condescending about mentally ill; I love line where Joon corrects Benny's score keeping of a ping-pong game:" the mentally ill can count, you know". Both serious and comic, like life. Imagine, a good film without violence, drug life, car chases or sex. See it.
I have to say that I think Benny & Joon may be one of my favorite Johnny Depp films, along with Edward Scissorhands and Cry Baby. Unfortunately, you don't hear too many people talk about B&J the way they do Johnny's more high profile films, like Pirates of the Caribbean. This film is wonderful because it manages to tell the story of two mentally ill characters and never make them helpless victims. Instead, at their worst they're merely troubled and interesting characters, and at their best they're absolutely charming and heartwarming. Of course, Depp shines with his spot-on Chaplin impressions, and Masterson and Quinn are in top form as well. The real miracle of this film is that it is able to tell a story laced with realism through a whimsical lens, and it walks the tightrope of making one feel good without blatant reassurance. You believe Benny and Joon love one another without a gratuitous sex scene, (only a beautifully sensual one), and the viewer subsequently falls in love with everyone because this is a fine example of the way characters should be developed. Bravo to all involved!
If you read this one exactly as it's written and take out the Depp character it can play accurately. It would never be a big movie like that (it wasn't big anyway) but it would be consistent and good. But insert Depp's character (and Depp's way of playing this character) and you have something entirely else. The title holds only if you don't have Depp in the movie - for this movie is all about Depp. He literally steals the show. I don't know much about Depp, what I've heard he is a somewhat weird character, but if you look at what he's done - Scissorhands and this movie as two examples - you have to wonder if you're not looking at one of the truly great actors of the day. The diner scene with the two dinner rolls, the tray of dinners, the Wurlitzer and Julianne Moore; the kitchen antics; the jack-in-the-box scene - simple but still; the 'mail a letter to momma' scene - look how Depp totally creates his character; and the park scene: this is great stuff. Is it about Benny and Joon and their ability to cope with their situation? Maybe. But moviegoers might remember this essentially 'feel good' movie as only another incredible Johnny Depp performance.
I saw "Benny and Joon" in a dollar theatre when I was 12 and a half and
my family was going through some difficult times. I had always liked
movies before, but they were just an occasional treat and I never
really paid attention to actors or directors or the like. After seeing
"Benny and Joon" I was in love with movies! I can't pinpoint what it
was about this movie that touched me so, but as an insecure, nerdy
little 12 year old, it gave me something I needed. I have learned a lot
about movies since then, I can name most actors and directors and I
know all the production company logos, which makes me a little TOO
A lot of movies have come and gone since I first saw "Benny and Joon" and there are plenty that I love, but, for me "Benny and Joon" will always be tops and always have a special place in my heart.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sparingly and compactly made, an excellent sweet film. I found myself laughing out loud, along with my 15-year-old daughter. The sequences with Johnny Depp in the park were delightful and fun. I also found the portrayal of Joon very sympathetic and real. Aidan Quinn was just right in his role of Benny, restrained and compassionate, with just the right amount of yearning to be free. I was touched by the scenes of Benny and Joon's parents' death. Johnny Depp was, as always, original and amazing. He is so elastic. This movie shows a very sweet, innocent side of him which is rarely seen elsewhere. His flexibility and physical prowess are astounding, as are his gentleness with Joon and the sympathy with which he views her. I think my favorite scene may be the last one, where the two of them are in the kitchen ironing cheese sandwiches! Sweet, fun movie!
I have fallen in love with this film. It is a classic love story between
two lovable, quirky characters Sam and Joon. Benny and Joon has serious
elements in its portrayal of Joon's (Masterson) sickness and how it
her relationship with her brother, Benny (Quinn). This melancholy feeling
is soon overshadowed by the magical aura that Sam (Depp) brings to these
troubled siblings giving the movie an overall light-hearted and fun
The characters in Benny and Joon make the film truly original. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Sam is amazing. He hits the mark with his off-the-wall performance that brings exceptional charm to the story. Mary Stuart Masterson's portrayal of the mentally ill Joon is also spectacular. Depp and Masterson have undeniable chemistry in this movie. The quirkiness of their characters complement each other while Aidan Quinn's portrayal of Benny keeps the story down to earth with his sensibility that contrasts Sam and Joon's eccentricity. In short, this is a romance you won't want to miss.
I was surprised at how much I liked this film, I guess that I could somehow relate to the characters. Masterson's Joon is an awfully sad character that I really felt bad for, so was Depp's Sam, but they worked so well together, and had so many wonderful moments that made this film work. Anyone with a heart will enjoy this sweet little film. The only mistake was the relationship between Aidan Quinn and Julianne Moore, that just didnt seem to fit into the rest of the movie. Still, its a sweet and warm hearted film that everyone should enjoy. My rating: 8/10.
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