October, 1980: Private Benjamin

Private Benjamin is, ultimately, half a movie. It starts out strong, goes a little haywire nearly 45 minuets in, and then completely falls apart thereafter. We’re still not quite sure what the creatives in charge of the film’s production were thinking, but we’re also not media professionals.


The film chronicles the antics of a young woman, Judy Benjamin (played by Goldie Hawn), that can’t quite keep a relationship together and is aware of her parent’s disdain for her work ethic. After her most recent husband dies on their wedding night during an act of passion, she decides that the army seems like a nice change. Well, she’s conned into thinking so by an ambitious recruiter that promises condos, yachts, and a laid-back lifestyle.

Her world is turned upside down when she attends basic and is stonewalled by Captain Doreen Lewis (played by Eileen Brennan)– a hard-nosed, aggressive leader that quickly puts Judy in her place. After Judy is nearly bailed out by her parents, whom she neglected to inform that she was leaving for the military, she has a change of heart and decides to prove her worth to everyone that counted her out. She becomes highly respected and is reassigned to France after an unwanted, sexual encounter with a superior.

In France, she reconvenes with a man (Henri) she met in a bar prior to her reassignment. It turns out that he’s not quite what he seems and the two have a nasty altercation during their wedding ceremony. In the end, Judy finds her independence, we guess, and comes out stronger in the end.

There’s no way around it, Private Benjamin is clunky. It quickly shifts from a lighthearted, and funny, military-based comedy to a deeply unsatisfying and uninteresting drama centered around a failed engagement. If the script had stuck to the tone and stayed true to the characters in the first half, this would’ve been a much better movie. Instead, it’s only half of a good movie.

Matt's rating: 2.5/5
Gabe's rating: 2/5
Rewind Cinema composite: 4.5/10




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