Benny and Joon (1993)

Well, of course most people think of this movie for one reason: Johnny Depp.

And, while male and straight with no inkling of how to understand attraction to males (though I can go “Yes, I suppose I DO see what’s of interest in [so-and-so]…”) I still appreciate Mr. Depp. Probably for his tendency toward celluloid oddities, I suppose.

This is a bit of an oddity in and of itself, it struck me as it began as of my favourite period; the time where I just enjoyed going to movies–something that occurred to me as I was watching…I’m not sure. But I thought of sitting in a theatre and watching those slightly scratchy prints of the Tri-Star winged horse, and other intros where they weren’t a mass of CGI and were optical effects and live action and hand drawn animation. Just something…engrossing. And the depth of colour, which I mention many, many times–films from the 90s have it. I don’t know enough about film stock or cinematography to identify it beyond that, but it’s there.

The way the film starts with The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” over a montage of Joon painting and other stuff, yeah, I knew I was in for my favourite period of film, even if nothing incredibly special in terms of content, topic, writing, so on and so forth. With a release year of 1993, it wasn’t a big question, but all the same–there it was.

Still, it ended up being slightly off from what I expected. I continue to associate it, for some reason, with that movie with Rik Mayall and Phoebe Cates (Drop Dead Fred) and end up surprised by the lack of fantasy. Anyway, it turns out the film is about a brother and sister, not a couple, and the title does not in either name refer to Depp. By now I shouldn’t be surprised that cover art is misleading and pushes to the forefront the actors who are now popular as opposed to those who necessarily star in a cheap marketing ploy. Though, at least, this wasn’t near as bad as most of them are.

Sam (Depp) is a curious film buff with a great affection for silent film–especially Buster Keaton, and pulls off some rather impressive physical comedy in imitation and reference to said stars, who falls for Juniper (“Joon”–Mary Stuart Masterson, in an EXCELLENT performance) the brother of Benny (Aidan Quinn–see my previous comments about Edward Burns in Confidence–same deal) who has been taking care of the mentally ill Joon for twelve years without their parents.

It addresses some interesting topics about the interplay between all of these characters, the effects Benny and Joon have on each other’s lives, which are partly as to be expected and as we begin seeing from Benny, and eventually almost a reverse of what’s expected in some ways we later find. But it’s clever and doesn’t DIRECTLY address these things–generally a good thing, if you ask me–but makes them clear all the same.

It’s a damn fun movie, and a bit fluffy–but I’ve never been one to care. A good watch, and easily worth the minimal price paid.


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