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Private Benjamin
War, Comedy
IMDB rating:
Howard Zieff
Robert Webber as Col. Clay Thornbush
Robert Hanley as Arnie
Estelle Marlov as Vocalist at Wedding
James Dybas as Photographer
Sam Wanamaker as Teddy Benjamin
Lee Wallace as Mr. Waxman
Goldie Hawn as Pvt. Judy Benjamin - Judy Goodman
Armand Assante as Henri Alan Tremont
Barbara Barrie as Harriet Benjamin
Mary Kay Place as Pvt. Mary Lou Glass
Eileen Brennan as Capt. Doreen Lewis
Harry Dean Stanton as 1st Sgt. Jim Ballard
Albert Brooks as Yale Goodman
Storyline: When her husband dies in the wedding night Judy decides to join the army. What looks like a bad decision at first, turns out not so bad at all. That is, until her superior makes sexual advances. She is transferred to NATO headquarters in Europe and (re)meets the Frenchman Henri. Judy and Henri decide to marry, but will they ?
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Hawn does comedy well, but this should have been better.
Ah, the good old forces comedy gets a female make over with entertaining enough results.

When Judy Benjamin's second husband dies whilst making love to her, she is sold on joining the army by cunning recruitment officer Sgt. Jim Ballard {Harry Dean Stanton}, trouble for Judy is that training camp in Biloxi is a far cry from the exotic base she had envisaged for her stay in the service. Pulled from pillar to post by ruthless Capt. Doreen Lewis {a delightful Eileen Brennan}, and shunned by her fellow recruits for being a whining posh lass, Judy finally gets the picture and pulls herself up from the brink of misery.

The script from Nancy Meyers, Charles Shyler and Harvey Miller stands up well enough, it's laced with genuine humour, and at its core, the triumph of the will theme gladdens the spirit all told. Yet strip away the comic ability of Goldie Hawn and you would be left with a very unmemorable picture, and come the films final snug piece of jigsaw filling, you can't help thinking that the films shift away from the army to France {for Judy's final romantic awakening} has left us short of more comic glee, and thus an empty feeling replaces where once was fulfilment. 6/10
Which 'Private Benjamin' is the Real Movie?
I've loved Goldie Hawn since her 'Laugh-In' days, and never miss anything she does, but this one was confusing to me. Were the producers trying to make a comedy? They did, up to a point. The movie is crude comedy typical of other Hollywood 'misfit in military training' slapsticks (see 'Stripes'), up to the scene in Colonel Thornbush's office in which Judy accuses the Colonel of attempted rape. From that point on, there is not a single laugh, and the plot shifts to cold war politics, a potentially abusive relationship and revenge. Even the Eileen Brennan character, a comic foil for Hawn in the first half, becomes a mean-spirited superior, out to destroy Benjamin's career. The lead user comment on this site refers to Judy Benjamin as a woman seeking her identity. I would say the same for the movie, and regret that it never discovered exactly what it was trying to be. 5/10.
When it comes to comedy,there are many every day situations that are good fodder to build on.The military is one of them.You can take an endless list of comedic performers and,when examined,the whole idea of any of them being in the military is hysterical.Goldie Hawn is definitely on that list.Now,you need to surround her with the right people to make the idea work.Mission:Accomplished.Hawn's talents were complimented well in this film and we have ourselves a gem of a military comedy.While not the best ever made,it certainly is among the best.It has moments about midway where it drags just a little,but not enough to damage the overall viewing experience.
I think Goldie Hawn is hilarious in this movie!
For a comedy with a message to helpless women, this movie is great. It depicts a rich, spoiled woman who is able to find self worth and confidence in the military. Casting for Private Benjamin was perfect. I loved this movie.
Too Much Story for One Movie
Please note that due to the scope of this movie, spoilers may be inevitable. I will try to keep them to a minimum

I was only six when this movie came out--much too young to see an "R" rated movie. But I do remember watching the TV spin-off. Based on those memories, I expected this movie to be about a spoiled, rich, young woman who joins the army only to find that it is much tougher than she imagined; but through a predictable character change she would become a well rounded cadet, winning the respect of the base commander by proving herself in competition. And that's exactly what this movie is about--for the first hour.

After that, Private Benjamin actually becomes its own sequel. It goes on to explore her post(s) after basic training and her plunge back into a love affair after her second husband died while having sex with her. If you think that's a lot of territory for a movie--a comedy, no less--to cover, you're right. Many conflicts in the story are never resolved. Some are never even explored. Some are resolved but revisited and then left unresolved. The last half hour of the movie seems strangely detached from the rest, and there simply aren't enough laughs for a comedy with so much potential.

Private Benjamin should have been two movies. They would have been two very different movies, but they both could have been great. Crammed together, both stories (basic training, and the army/social life) suffer. Neither is what it could have been. And that's a shame. We could have had two Goldie Hawn classics. Instead we have one passable movie.
"Has anybody ever died from basic?"
This comedy flick is about a spoiled Jewish-American woman Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn) who joins the Army after her new husband dies right on their wedding night during sex and duped by sneaky recruiting Sgt. Jim Ballard (Harry Dean Stanton) convinces her that military life to be glamorous, she gets a rude wake up call in boot camp after getting in trouble constantly, especially by Judy's hard-nosed superior officer Capt. Doreen Lewis (Eileen Brennan) prompting her to want a quit the Army, but then Judy has a change of heart and decides to stick it out leading her to a series of adventures that eventually lead her to a promotion and a transfer to Paris, France.

The entire cast is outstanding, but especially Hawn who lights up the screen with her charm and beauty. Goldie Hawn is made for this kind of role, and as usual delivers the goods. There are some genuinely 'laugh out loud' moments as she struggles to adapt and make friends. Unfortunately the film seems to run out of steam half way through. Whereas the first half is true comedy, the second half has very little in the way of humor to offer. Having met a French gynecologist who she falls for, she wangles a posting to Paris to be with him. This is where the humor disappears as Judy leaves the army to be with him and he turns out to be a control freak that turns Judy into a clone of his ex girlfriend. It's almost like watching two separate films. I think it would have been better if the whole movie was her in the army not broken into basically two parts one distinctly comedic and the other a love story. Still, despite some glaring flaws, Private Benjamin is a good movie with a good story to tell. Unfortunately, what was probably a pretty daring look at gender rolls for its time has gotten really stale. If you overlook that, though, the movie is very entertaining.

Overall rating: 8 out of 10.
Loses Its Way.
Goldie Hawn (Oscar-nominated) joins the U.S. Army after being suckered in by a crude recruiter in this nice little comedy that loses its way late due to unnecessary twists and plot resolutions. Hawn is searching for herself after her new husband (Albert Brooks) dies during their honeymoon. Next she gets thrown in with crazed drill instructor Eileen Brennan (Oscar-nominated) and a group of rowdy fellow-recruits. A hilarious first half struggles to keep up its intensity as the movie progresses and that, more than anything else, hurts "Private Benjamin". Still a good film though. 4 stars out of 5.
Blonde to Green
Private Benjamin is one of those films you can come back to it years after watching it and still be cheered up by its cheer brilliance and Hawns excellent portray of a middle class 'blonde'. The film really displays excellent sense of friendship and discovery of ones self, which Hawn discovers after her husbands unexpected death and joins the an army camp in Boloxi unaware of what she has got herself into. During her inintital training we see great comical acting from Eileen Brennan who plays Capt, Doreen Lewis. Judy goes on to discover love in Paris with Henri, who is communist and must decide whether she is going to continue with her career or go back to the nothing life she had before. It must be said that Goldie Hawn is the Reese Witherspoon of the 1980's.
Under Rated Comedy
This must be the most under rated, under appreciated, overlooked comedy ever. It was never even released in Wide-screen on DVD. Goldie Hawn shines as the main Character Judy Benjamin as well as Eileen Brennen as the tough sergeant. Oh, and did I mention how funny it is.

It is the Story of Judy Benjamin, a newly married Jewish "Princess" with over protective Parents. To them, Judy is the typical "be pretty and stay quiet" kind of a girl. They marry her off to a doctor as every nice Jewish girl must do. This begins a journey of self discovery for Judy and we are taken along for the ride. As the title insinuates, she joins the Army and begins to develop into the woman that deep down she knew she could be.

I never understood why this movie has been cast aside. Maybe the audience does not want to see a mature, thoughtful Goldie Hawn. It's one of my favorites, and I hope one day it gets the treatment that it deserves on Blu-Ray.
Private Banjamin is an uneven film, but it is also an entertaining one. The first half is very focused, but the second half does get rather scatter-shot and dull. While most of it is funny, some of the laughs have a tendency to become sporadic, while the romance felt forced for my tastes. On the other hand, the film is at least nice to look at with good cinematography, editing and scenery, the story is decently paced and maintains interest and at its best the script is smart and snappy. Goldie Hawn is a very likable lead, and there is a sterling support cast including Eileen Brennan and Harry Dean Stanton. Overall, a very decent and entertaining film. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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