Friday Night In: Benny & Joon

After a slew of requests to recommend a romantic comedy, I finally found the only decent way for me to succumb: through one of the few intelligent films that are out there. There is some inexplicable attraction that we as viewers have to the Rom-Com genre (and boys, don’t you try to deny it–WE know you enjoy a little Meg Ryan, Sandra Bullock hoopla every now and again) and yet, as a response film studios think it is okay to just give us a pair of attractive comedic types and forego a script, let alone a plot. Improvised lines and chiseled abs are what sold tickets to The Proposal. And God only knows how Ghosts of Girlfriends Past managed to make any ticket sales in the world after Twitter.

Then of course, there is the ever-growing group of skeptics and cynics that is the result of dating in today’s age. A friend of mine, when I informed her that I would be covering a romance film,  said that  “the romance genre might be more accurately classified as fantasy.” Personally, I am forced to agree with her–not out of spite for the concept of love and relationships, but because the plot points we are given along with the underdeveloped characters are better suited to be in a galaxy far far away. Romance films of late seem to have been sent to make a mockery of its audience. Studios are simply pumping them out with a complete disregard for the intelligence levels of the people paying GOOD money for a ticket with every intention of spending a few hours to be, and here is the kicker–ENTERTAINED.


I racked my brain for days trying to come up with more than just four films that I felt could qualify as intelligent, witty stories that are in fact, believable. I also, per request of a certain sister of mine, had to stay away from the classics because as incredulous as it may sound a good many people choose to not watch black and white films (Note to readers to whom this applies: Do it! you will never regret it). This narrowed the selection considerably. But, after days of perusing a plethora of film libraries and renting an insane amount of  more recent releases that I was unfamiliar with–I couldn’t fight the pounding reminder of what is Benny & Joon.

The movie is hands down one of the most charming, intelligent and wittily humorous stories ever brought to screen. Johnny Depp does a fantastic job bringing the eccentric Sam to life, a Buster Keaton/Charlie Chaplin obsessed outsider who is raffled off via a game of poker by his cousin to Benny (Aidan Quinn). Benny is an auto-mechanic in a small town where his life revolves around taking care of his mentally-ill younger sister, Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson). The film follows the story of the love that develops between Sam and Joon, two young people who live on the edge of society and how they learn to find their place together, but more so it also focuses on the love and relationship between Benny and his sister and how he in fact has to cope with her determination to lead a normal life.


I don’t believe it is possible to find a single fault with this film. It is charming, entertaining and just a great breath of fresh air. Every time I watch it,  I am reminded how amazing an actor Johnny Depp is (although, you can get that feel from just about any film he has made), but it also makes me want to see more of Aidan Quinn. But again, it is the storyline that leads these guys to give such great perfomances.

So, here is the challenge–out of plain curiosity–can you find a recent film that is of equal intelligence and entertainment value as Benny & Joon? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I have included my runner up choices below in the recommendation section.  But don’t forget to check out the trailer below as well.

“ARGH! I’ve Already Seen This Movie!”

If you are already familiar with Benny & Joon–go ahead and try out: French Kiss, Monsoon Wedding, Bringing Up Baby, and Keith (not a comedy, but good).


original post, 7/17/09 @ 08:02

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