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Benny & Joon is a 1993 romantic comedy about how two misfits, Sam (Johnny Depp) and Juniper/Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson), find each other and fall in love. The film is perhaps best known for Depp's humorous physical comedy routines (which are based on silent film comic Buster Keaton and, to a lesser extent, Charlie Chaplin) and for popularizing in the U.S. the song "I'm Gonna Be " by The Proclaimers. The film was shot entirely on location in Spokanemarker, Washingtonmarker though many of the places filmed, such as the hospital, used fictitious names.


Small-town auto mechanic Benny has devoted his life to caring for his schizophrenic sister, Joon, who isn't capable of living on her own. Her behavior drives away all of her caretakers, and Benny is informed by Dr. Garvey (Joon's psychiatrist) that it is time to consider placing her in a group care facility where she will be with her peers. The following day, Joon is picked up in the street by the police after Benny leaves her at home unattended to go to work. Benny then brings Joon to an evening poker game, as he can't leave her alone again. When he returns home, his goldfish Steven is dead. All of the days's events diminish Benny's sense that he can take care of Joon, and his friends later add to his dilemma by telling him about all the things he could be doing with his life if it weren't for Joon.

Meanwhile, Benny's friend Mike has his cinemaphile cousin Sam staying with him, and Joon sees Sam sitting in a tree. Joon talks her way into a poker game with Benny's friends, and "wins" Sam off of Mike, who doesn't care much for Sam and his eccentricities. Benny is at first outraged, but after spending an evening with Sam at the local diner (where Sam recognizes the waitress Ruthie from an old horror film), and then coming home the next day to find Sam has cleaned the house, Benny decides Sam should stay on as Joon's "housekeeper". While cleaning the house, Sam experiences one of Joon's anxiety-driven behavioral "episodes", which results in Sam leaving the house, placing a present (a jack-in-the-box) for Joon on her doorstep, and waiting to be invited back in - which Benny and Joon promptly do.

The following day, Joon aids Sam when he is struggling with writing a letter to his mom, and the two go to the diner for tapioca. When Sam notices that Joon is picking the raisins off of her pudding, Joon states that she doesn't like them, because "they used to be fat and juicy and now they're twisted. They had their life stolen. They taste sweet but really they're just humiliated grapes." Ruthie takes the two on errands, such as getting Benny new goldfishes, and then takes them home, where Benny has been anxious. After staying for dinner, Ruthie's car won't start and Benny drives her home, where they set a dinner date. Meanwhile, left alone at home, Joon and Sam almost kiss.

The next day, Sam attempts to get a job at the local video store, but is overwhelmed by the application and leaves. Benny and Ruthie have a fun date, but Benny tells Ruthie his life is too complicated - and she says goodnight abruptly. The next day, Benny, Joon and Sam go to a park, where Benny is obviously a little down. Sam starts doing entertaining tricks, and a crowd gathers and applauds. Benny says "He's amazing!" and decides to persuade Sam that he could do more with his life than be Joon's housekeeper. Benny decides to stay behind at the park to reflect on things, and sends Joon home with Sam. When they arrive home, they have their first sexual encounter, and Sam tells Joon he loves her.

Sam asks Benny the next morning how crazy Joon really is, and Benny changes the subject to Sam's future in entertainment. While Sam gets his nerve up to verbally ask for a job at the video store, Benny persuades a buddy to let Sam audition for performances. When Benny suggests during dinner to Sam that he should make something of himself, Joon becomes agitated and makes Sam explain that he and Joon are romantically involved. Benny's temperment breaks down, and he throws Sam out of the house and yells at Joon that she's crazy. Feeling bad, he leaves to get her some tapioca; while he is away, Joon burns a childhood photo of herself and her brother, and then sees Sam at the door. They get on a bus, as if to run away together, and Joon immediately begins to have an anxiety attack, and Sam finds that he isn't prepared to deal with her behavior. The bus is stopped and an ambulance arrives to restrain Joon and take her to a mental facility. When Benny arrives at the hospital, Dr. Garvey tells him she doesn't want to see him. As he departs, he finds Sam in the waiting room, and continues his aggression toward him, ordering him to stay away from Joon and telling him he's an idiot. Sam quietly says "no" to Benny's order, and laments that he no longer looks up to Benny. Sam goes to stay at Ruthie's, as she rents apartments.

Benny seeks out Sam at the video store and asks for his help. The two go to the hospital, find out which room Joon is in, and orchestrate access to the room. Benny persuades Joon to consider getting her own apartment if she wants, and tries to convince her that Sam has come back for her too. Comically, while being interviewed by Dr. Garvey, Joon sees Sam swinging on a rope outside her window and waving at her with his hat, and she heartily states that she would like to try living in an apartment of her own; Dr. Garvey agrees to try out her choice, and Sam's rope breaks and he falls and breaks his ankle. Benny and Joon reconcile, and Sam and Joon are reunited upon her release.

In the end, Benny brings roses to Ruthie, and tells her his life is not so complicated now; Ruthie appears pleased. 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 on the ironing board.


Box office

Considered a modest hit, grossing $23,202,734.

Awards and nominations

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


The film holds an 72% positive review rating from Rotten Tomatoes.


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