Benny & Joon

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Benny & Joon
Benny and joon ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik
Produced by Susan Arnold
Donna Roth
Written by Barry Berman
Lesley McNeil
Starring Johnny Depp
Mary Stuart Masterson
Aidan Quinn
Julianne Moore
Oliver Platt
C.C.H. Pounder
Dan Hedaya
Joe Grifasi
William H. Macy
Music by Rachel Portman
Cinematography John Schwartzman
Edited by Carol Littleton
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
April 16, 1993 (1993-04-16)
Running time
98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $23,261,580[1]

Benny & Joon is a 1993 romantic comedy film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer about how two eccentric individuals, Sam (Johnny Depp) and Juniper "Joon" (Mary Stuart Masterson), find each other and fall in love. Aidan Quinn also stars, and it was directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik.

The film is perhaps best known for Depp's humorous physical comedy routines (which are based on silent film comics Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd) and for popularizing, in the United States, the song "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers.[2] Benny & Joon was shot primarily on location in Spokane, Washington, while the train scenes at the beginning were shot near Metaline Falls, Washington.


As adults, Benjamin "Benny" Pearl (Aidan Quinn) and his mentally ill sister Juniper "Joon" Pearl (Mary Stuart Masterson), live together following the accidental death of their parents. Benny's friend Mike (Joe Grifasi) has his cinemaphile cousin Sam (Johnny Depp) staying with him. Joon joins Benny and Mike's poker game, and loses a bet that commits Sam to live with the Pearls. Benny is at first outraged, but after an evening with Sam at the local diner and then coming home the next day to find Sam has cleaned the house, Benny decides Sam should be Joon's "housekeeper" since her other housekeepers had been scared away by Joon's outbursts.

The next day, Joon aids an illiterate Sam when he is struggling with writing to his mom, and the two go to the local diner where Ruthie (Julianne Moore) is working. She takes them on errands, and then takes them home. After Ruthie stays for dinner, her car won't start, and Benny drives her home, where they set a dinner date. Meanwhile, left alone, Joon and Sam almost kiss. Benny and Ruthie have a fun date, but it ends abruptly because Benny wants to get home to Joon. The next day, Benny, Joon and Sam go to a park. Sam starts doing Keatonesque tricks with his hat, attracting an appreciative crowd. Benny tries to persuade Sam that he could do more with his life than be Joon's housekeeper. Benny heads to the park to reflect and sends Joon home with Sam, where they make love. Sam tells Joon he loves her which Joon reciprocates.

The next morning Sam asks for a job at the video store; Benny persuades a buddy to let Sam audition. When Benny suggests to Sam that he should make something of himself, Joon becomes agitated and makes Sam explain that he and Joon are romantically involved. Benny throws Sam out of the house, yells at Joon, and shows her a pamphlet about a group home that Dr. Garvey (C.C.H. Pounder) thinks would be a better home for her. Joon starts hitting Benny and screaming, and he pushes her away. Feeling bad, Benny leaves to get her some tapioca. While Benny is away, Sam arrives. They pack suitcases and get on a bus, but Joon soon begins to hear voices and argue with them, in great distress. Sam tries to soothe her, but she continues to become more agitated. The bus is stopped, and two men with the ambulance service restrain Joon. When Benny arrives at the hospital, Dr. Garvey tells him Joon doesn't want to see him. He finds Sam in the waiting room, and they argue. Sam goes to stay with Ruthie, who is an apartment manager.

Benny discovers Sam, now working at the video store and asks for his help. They go to the hospital. Benny persuades Joon to consider getting her own apartment and tries to convince her that Sam has come back for her. While being interviewed by Dr. Garvey, Joon sees Sam swinging on a platform outside her window and waving, and she states that she would like to try living in her own apartment. Dr. Garvey agrees to try out her choice. Benny and Joon reconcile, and Sam and Joon are reunited upon her release. At the end, Benny brings roses to Ruthie. He takes another bouquet upstairs to Joon's apartment but smiles and leaves the flowers in the doorway when he discovers Sam and Joon together contentedly making grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron.



Originally Laura Dern and Woody Harrelson were to play the title roles.[3] Dern changed her mind, and Harrelson, who had committed to play Benny, broke the commitment to take a role in Paramount's film Indecent Proposal.[3] Aidan Quinn was brought in at the last minute to replace Woody Harrelson who had no intention of acting in this film. Unbeknownst to Harrelson, the producer was Donna Roth, the wife of then-Paramount Studios head Joe Roth. A lawsuit later ensued with Winona Ryder who was supposed to play Joon. Depp and Ryder broke up, leaving a space which was filled by Masterson.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

Roger Ebert gave the film three out of 4 stars.[5] Owen Gleiberman gave the film a grade of "B", saying "the movie is full of absurdist fripperies we're meant to find magically funny; mostly they're just cute (Sam cooking up grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron, a poker game in which a snorkel mask and baseball tickets are used as stakes). Beneath the domesticated surrealism, though, Benny & Joon becomes genuinely touching—a love story about separation anxiety. Benny, the saintly grease monkey, thinks he has to devote his life to Joon in order to keep her out of an institution. Can he give her the space she needs to fall in love (and then take said space for himself)? You already know the answer, but Quinn and Masterson—now gentle, now sniping—let it play out with tender conviction."[6] Janet Maslin wrote:[7]

"In a more realistic film (and to some degree this film recalls Dominick and Eugene, which also dealt with a hard-working brother taking care of a mentally impaired sibling), troubling issues might well shade the story. But Benny and Joon succeeds in remaining blithe and sunny, directed by Jeremiah Chechik (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation) with a commercial liveliness and a suitable sense of the absurd. The film's greatest asset is the obvious conviction of its actors, who never condescend to their roles. Mr. Depp may look nothing like Buster Keaton, but there are times when he genuinely seems to become the Great Stone Face, bringing Keaton's mannerisms sweetly and magically to life. As Mr. Depp and the rest of the film makers surely must have known, an impersonation like that is an all-or-nothing proposition. Ms. Masterson, a remarkably incisive and determined actress, never sentimentalizes Joon despite many ripe opportunities to do exactly that. She remains fierce, funny and persuasive even when the film conveniently soft-pedals the reality of Joon's situation. Mr. Quinn, often in the position of playing straight man to the other two leads, still makes Benny a touchingly sincere and sympathetic figure."

Box office[edit]

In spite of its "commercially improbable story", the film became a "sleeper success", evidence of the resurgence of date movies "after a decade dominated by action films."[3] In the first two weeks of a limited release, Benny & Joon grossed $8 million in U.S. box office.[8] Its domestic box office reached over $23.2 million.[1]

Portrayal of schizophrenia[edit]

Roger Ebert writes that Joon is "schizophrenic, although the screenplay doesn't ever say the word out loud."[9] David J. Robinson remarks that "More convincing features of schizophrenia (undifferentiated type) soon follow. We are told that Joon experiences auditory hallucinations, does well with a stable routine, and takes medication on a daily basis. Her use of language is one of her most interesting attributes. She uses the last housekeeper's surname ("Smail") to refer to anyone who might fill the position, which is how Sam (Johnny Depp) enters her life."[10] E. Fuller Torrey calls the film "a beautifully filmed but unrealistic story about a brother who is the sole caretaker of his kid sister, who has schizophrenia. ... While the film addresses such issues as noncompliance with medication and disputes over independent living arrangements, the bad times are never too severe or long-lasting.[11] Reviewers Mick Martin and Marsha Porter point out "[Although] most viewers will enjoy this bittersweet comedy.... Folks coping with mental illness in real life will be offended by yet another film in which the problem is sanitized and trivialized".[12]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Although the film didn't win any awards, actor Johnny Depp gained his second Golden Globe Award nomination.

Nomination Category Person
Golden Globe Best Actor - Comedy Movie Johnny Depp
MTV Movie Award Best Comedic Performance Johnny Depp
MTV Movie Award Best On-Screen Duo Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson
MTV Movie Award Best Movie Song The Proclaimers - I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)


  1. ^ a b Benny & Joon at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c Murphy, Ryan (May 7, 1993). "A Perfect Mismatch". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-09-29. After a decade dominated by action films, the sleeper success of Benny & Joon — an oddball romance starring Masterson and Depp as seemingly ill-matched lovers who find each other a perfect fit — is the latest evidence that movies made for couples are finding their niche once again. 
  4. ^ Saban, Stephen (October 1994). "The Mighty Quinn". Movieline. p. 67. 
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 16, 1993). "Benny and Joon". 3/4 stars. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  6. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (April 23, 1993). "Benny & Joon". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 16, 1993). "He's His Sister's Keeper, and What a Job That Is". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  8. ^ Berkman, Meredith (May 7, 1993). "Saturday Night Fever!". Cover story. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-09-29. In just three weeks, Indecent Proposal, with its controversial premise (a billionaire offers a young couple $1 million for a night with the wife) and all-star cast, has grossed more than $60 million; MGM's Benny & Joon, aimed at a younger crowd, has also done surprisingly well, earning $8 million in two weeks of comparatively limited release. And the phenomenal success of last November's The Bodyguard, which has grossed $120 million, ensures that Hollywood is taking this genre seriously once more. 
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger. Roger Ebert's Video Companion. p. 69. 
  10. ^ Robinson, David J. Reel Psychiatry: Movie Portrayals of Psychiatric Conditions. p. 36. 
  11. ^ Torrey, E. Fuller. Surviving Schizophrenia: A Manual for Families, Patients, and Providers (fifth ed.). p. 377. ISBN 978-0-06-084259-8. 
  12. ^ Mick Martin, Marsha Porter. Video movie guide 2002. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-345-42100-5. 

External links[edit]