“Soap on a rope: Slightly used”Review by Lily Taylor
Although I wouldn’t usually choose to watch a romantic comedy, it doesn’t take much convincing to get me to sit through an hour and a half of young Johnny Depp. The film opens to ‘I’m gonna be (500 miles)’ by The Proclaimers so needless to say I was instantly hooked! The film follows Benny Pearl (Aidan Quinn) who lives with his sister Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson) who suffers from mental illness and requires supervision from their house keeper. Due to Joon’s behaviour the housekeeper quits, leaving Benny to hold down a full time job and take care of Joon. Unbeknownst to Joon, her therapist has suggested Benny consider placing her into a group home where she can be cared for by professionals and Benny can lead a more normal lifestyle.
One evening, Joon loses a poker game and is forced to have a friends cousin come to stay with her and Benny. The cousin, Sam (Johnny Depp) is a kooky misfit but by far my favourite character in the movie- nothing to do with his gorgeous cheekbones I promise. Joon and Sam soon become more than friends and each one seems to teach the other a little more about life throughout the film. Joon helps Sam learn to write so that he can get a job in a local video store and he brings her joy and confidence.
This is not an artsy fartsy film. This is an easy-watching, feel-good movie with loveable and eccentric characters. I think to comment on the portrayal of mental illness is slightly unnecessary given that the film was made in 1993 however, it does subtly raise issues associated with independence and autonomy for those suffering with mental health conditions. We also explore the effect that caring for his sister has on Benny, specifically his ability to have a relationship with waitress Ruthie (Julianne Moore) and his attempts to juggle work commitments.
I found Sam to be an exceptionally endearing character and a clear nod to classic comedians like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. He is originally pigeonholed as an illiterate eccentric but wins Benny, Joon and myself over with a public comedy routine. One of my favourite scenes is where Sam straps on a delightful floral apron and makes grilled cheese sandwiches using an iron, a stroke of pure genius if you ask me.
I suppose the cinematography is pretty dated and I wasn’t blown away by the soundtrack beyond the opening number; I also feel compelled to address Julianne Moore’s Lego man haircut- painfully 90’s! Nevertheless, that’s not the point of the movie in my eyes. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is, there’s nothing pretentious about it. The storyline is simple, you get the happy ending you’ve been waiting for and everything wraps up in a tight little bow. If you’re looking for a feel good, kookie rom-com then look no further than ‘Benny and Joon’.