We’re a bit behind with Cocktails and Classics, but nice weather, and vendor shows will do that to us. We still plan to bring you more classics, paired with our insight, flawed as it may be. A couple weeks ago we took a look at Private Benjamin, a movie neither of us had seen, but one I’ve heard is a classic from the 80s. I’m not sure why, but we’ll get into that.
Private Benjamin is a 1980 comedy starring Goldie Hawn, Harry Dean Stanton, and Armand Assante. The story is about a spoiled, sheltered rich woman who has been taken care of her entire life, gets married, and loses her husband to a heart attack that night. In a fit of “I can do it on my own,” she runs off to find herself, and decides to join the army based on the obvious lies of a grossly stereotyped recruiter. It’s meant to be a movie about a woman finding herself and her independence. Her drive to succeed, and take control of her life. It tries anyway. In the end, Benjamin throws it all away for Henri (Assante) in a non-sensical turn in the story which is only resolved so close to the end of the move that it’s in no way satisfying or redeeming.
This is meant to be a comedy, but most of it is just ridiculous rather than funny. Funny military movies are few and far between, and usually revolved around awful stereotypes and unrealistic depictions of the military. Obviously there’s a reason for that, there isn’t much that’s funny about the Army. But, where Stripes was more subtle about that and left the comedy to the cast of brilliant actors, Private Benjamin just lays on the stupid thick, and hopes you’ll laugh. There were a couple of humorous moments, but I can’t recall them just a couple weeks later so they weren’t all that memorable.
As Julie said, the movie is all about a young woman who is gaslighted her entire life, by everyone, tries to become her own person, only to let it all happen again. The story itself had a lot of potential, but toward the end they blew it by having her completely revert back to her old ways. It’s not like she just turned her life around and relapsed. She’d been a successful soldier for years before she decided to turn her brain off for Henri. Again, she finally gets her head straight right at the end of the movie, making it too late for it to be satisfying or to feel like Benjamin is redeemed.
All in all this isn’t a good movie. It’s not funny, and the story guts itself.