Benny & Joon (Blu-ray)
Before Johnny Depp became an international superstar and household name, he did a quirky film back in 1993 that most people know about but perhaps may not have seen called BENNY & JOON. It’s one of those films that may not resonate with many but may be remembered for the excellent performance from a young Johnny Depp.
BENNY & JOON follows Juniper “Joon” Pearl and her brother Benny. Joon suffers from what appears to be a high-functioning form of some mental illness and has to be cared for by her older brother Benny (played by Aidan Quinn) due to the death of their parents. As Benny is contemplating putting Joon into an assisted living facility, a young man named Sam (Depp) is introduced into their lives through the loss of a poker game. Sam is a quirky and eccentric character that strikes up a bond with Joon and inadvertently connects Benny with a girlfriend played by Julianne Moore.
It’s easy to see why BENNY & JOON is one of those films that people enjoy because it’s very light-hearted but has enough drama mixed in to keep it interesting. However, it never really hit that point of “great movie” for me. The characters were colorful and charming at times, but they were never fully developed enough to form a deep connection with the audience. It was never entirely explained where Sam came from or exactly why he acted like he did (other than he seemed to want to emulate Buster Keaton) and it was even eluded to that he also had some kind of learning disability but it was never fully explored. The audience was just supposed to accept that Sam was some kind of patient yet peculiar guy who just connected with the mentally challenged Joon. It would have been nice to delve into his storyline a little more and concentrate less on the struggles of Benny and the fact that he was trying to get his life back on track while taking care of his sister. It was a good attempt, but the two stories just didn’t mix as well as they could have.
What does stand out in this film is the brilliant performance by Johnny Depp. Most people will remember him for his off-the-wall characters like Edward Scissorhands, Captain Jack Sparrow or even the Mad Hatter, but his reserved yet captivating performance as Sam should probably get more credit than it usually does. There’s a scene where Sam does a Buster Keaton like performance in the park that is actually quite enjoyable and it’s just a short little stint that seemed to be thrown in there to showcase Depp’s massive talent but then wasn’t explored anymore which was extremely disappointing.
Overall BENNY & JOON was one of those films that you can say, yes, I’m glad I watched it but if I never see it again I won’t cry. It’s funny how this film kind of catapulted Johnny Depp onto his successful film path but at the same time stopped Mary Stuart Materson’s dead in its tracks. I’m not sure whether or not it had anything to do with her performance in the film, but her work was so overshadowed by Depp’s that it probably didn’t help her career much.
Video (1080p, 1.85:1): Considering this film was shot in the early 90’s it doesn’t look too bad and the transfer is nice and clear.
Audio (DTS-HD, 2.0): Sounded fine.
Audio Commentary from director Jeremiah Chechik: Mr. Chechik is very passionate about this film and it comes through in his commentary. He does a pretty good job of giving some in depth look at the characters and story as well as some technical aspects. However, he does tend to pause a lot in between thoughts and talks at a much slower pace than commentaries I have listened to in the past.
Deleted Scenes (5:11): These are all shown with a commentary by director Jeremiah Chechik. One is a scene of Sam (Depp) doing an audition and making Benny look like a big jerk and the other is a full on version of the film within the film ‘The Mutilator’ starring Julianne Moore’s character. They both deserved to be cut but were still interesting to watch.
Costume, Make-up Test and Stunt Reel (18:45): Commentated by John Schwartzman, director of photography going through such things as filter tests and such. He has some interesting things to say and this isn’t a typical type of featurette, so since it’s fairly short and there aren’t a lot of other featuresI would recommend a watch if you are interested in the technical aspects of filmmaking.
Music Video: “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) Performed by The Proclaimers