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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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Fun first half
Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn) is a picky superficial newlywed who loses her husband (Albert Brooks) during wedding night sex on the bathroom floor. She's 28, married twice, and trained for nothing. Lying recruiter Jim Ballard (Harry Dean Stanton) tricks her to join the army. She's in for a rude awakening and wants to go home. Captain Lewis (Eileen Brennan) is her tough trainer. After being belittled by her father, she decides to stay rather than go home getting taken care of. She becomes a great private and rout the opposition in a war game. While on leave in New Orleans, she meets french doctor Henri Tremont (Armand Assante). Later, he would propose but he isn't prince charming.

Goldie Hawn is fun and Eileen Brennan is terrific. They are both great and the movie is actually uplifting. The movie should probably stay with basic training. The second half isn't quite as compelling and the comedy dries up. The movie is better off expanding on the first half and cut out the second half.
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.
Avoid Part 2
In "Private Benjamin" Goldie Hawn demonstrates what made her a star: blond hair, child's eyes, and an astounding ability to laugh at herself. Here she sends herself up as both a dumb blond AND a Jewish princess, and the formula would serve as the prototype for every film she made afterward. If this is Goldie at her best, why isn't the film considered a classic? You ask a good question, friend...

The first hour of the movie is delightful. Fish-out-of-water Judy Benjamin joins the Army. Judy aggravates the tough-as-nails drill instructor (Eileen Brennan), develops as a soldier and a person, triumphs at war games and inevitably dances to Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" with her fellow cadets in the ultimate display of female bonding. (Sync cycles, anyone?)

Hmmmm... that's odd. The movie's over. But according to the box there's still an hour left. What could possibly come next? A bizarre adventure in which Officer Judy gets stationed overseas, falls in love with a Frenchman, and has to decide whether to marry him or re-enlist in the army. I found my mind wandering during the second-half... I started making mental grocery lists, naming state capitals... it was very difficult to stay focused on a movie that had so clearly lost its focus. The scattershot second-half of the movie only serves to undo the good of the first half. Maybe this is why the movie fails to endure as a classic.

Still, there's a lot of laughs here, with Goldie Hawn at her best.

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
As Uneven As The Times
THE POST Vietnam War years were a sort of mixed bag of conflicting attitudes, changing social mores and an unsure future. Every one of these elements are reflected in the films of that era and the elements that comprise the uneven mood and mission of PRIVATE BENJAMIN are typical.

ALTHOUGH THE CONFLICT in Southeast Asia is not a player in the film, the now (1980) vilified Military is at the center of the story. One could gather that the writer and production team inferred that one's choosing to join or to make a career of the Armed Forces was below the dignity of anyone who wishes to "make anything of himself."

PROMOTED AS A COMEDY starring vehicle for Miss Goldie Hawn, the movie proves to be much more complex. We concede that, yes it is a comedy in the Classic, Shakespearean sense and there were many a moment of high readings on the old laugh-meter. But there is always an underlying feeling of tension, uncertainty and indecision.

THE PERFORMANCES BY the cast were better than average; with star Goldie Hawn and Eileen Brennan's lively interpretations of the women of the U.S. Army being the most interesting aspect of this uneven and preachy comedy-drama.

THE FOLLOWING YEAR (1981) Warner Brothers launched a PRIVATE BENJAMIN TV Series; which ran on CBS. In the series, Eileen Brenan reprised her role from the feature film. She was the only hold over./
A near-great comedienne ups the ante on this one
There are millions of comedies like "Private Benjamin". They are like TV shows that turn out the same joke week after week, (and "Private Benjamin" itself turned into a TV show). The best ones work and stay in the memory, not because the jokes are great, (though sometimes they are), but because the players are good and can develop the characters beyond the mere limitations of the gag. ("Frasier" and "The Golden Girls" fall into this category).

The jokes in "Private Benjamin" are not particularly original but they are funny, and they are funny because there is a near-great comedienne at the heart of Howard Zieff's film. With the right director Goldie Hawn's kookie, goof-ball wooziness was just about perfect and Zieff brings it out. Her character is the kind of woman who needs a good shaking, (Bette Davis would have made mincemeat out of her), but you love her all the same. At least until she starts making a fool of herself with Armand Assante's French sleaze-ball and the film loses it's comic momentum.

There is at least one other grand-standing comic turn from Eileen Brennan as Hawn's drill sergeant. Brennan's like a slightly butcher Mae West, (I think we're meant to assume she's a lesbian), and she gives her lines the kind of inflection that West did. Between them they raise the ante on this one.
Good, though it's not sure what it is
Goldie Hawn is "Private Benjamin" in this 1980 comedy/drama also starring Eileen Brennan, Sam Wanamaker, Barbara Barrie, Mary Kay Place, and Armand Assante. Hawn is Judy Benjamin, whose second husband dies on her wedding night. Inconsolable, she calls into a radio show, where another caller says he can help her. When they meet, he turns out to be an Army recruiter who promises her a condo on the water and says she can quit if she doesn't like it. Adrift, Judy joins. She doesn't get the condo, and the only water is when it rains or she falls in the mud during training.

In spite of having no interest or commitment and incurring the wrath of her superior (Brennan), when Judy tries to go AWOL, the army gives up and sends for her parents. It's then that Judy decides to become a soldier and refuses to leave. She does well, and after sexual harassment from an officer (Robert Webber), she gets to be transferred anywhere she wants. She chooses France, so that she can take up with a one-night stand with a French doctor (Armand Assante) who visited America.

The problem with this film is that it's Goldie Hawn, and audiences expected a comedy and instead got more of a comedy-drama. It's almost two films, the second beginning when Judy becomes re-involved with the Assante character.

On the plus side, the acting is terrific, and the film holds interest. If the writers hadn't tried to do too many things at once, or been clearer with their intentions from the beginning, the movie could have been a lot better. As it is, it's good, and a great vehicle for two wonderful talents, Hawn and Brennan.
Predictable 80's Fluff, but enjoyable all the same *** out of *****
'Private Benjamin' is probably Goldie Hawn's best movie, or at least most well known. Her role as a rich bitch in a fish out of water tale is one she has milked over the years, but here it was quite original and she is at her least annoying, The script by Meyers,Shyer and Miller is one they could do in their sleep and is quite Funny even if it does get incredibly mushy and slushy as the Movie goes on as her character falls for French smoothie Armand Assante. This was a big hit in it's day and deservedly so, but this story has been done to death in the years since and is quite similar to Bill Murray's Movie Stripes which came out barely a year later.

Premiere Magazine voted this one of the 50 greatest comedies of all time, while I wouldn't go that far as it's not much better or worse than most of her repertoire.

*** out of *****
As far as I'm concerned the movie ends the moment the training does
It's a real shame because "Private Benjamin" had good potential, and everyone involved meant well but...

Well, I did laugh- the scenes where Goldie is in basic training in the military are funny, amusing and fun but the moment basic training ends and Goldie goes to France, it becomes long and boring with not a single laugh to offer. The last half an hour or so were completely pointless. The writers should have crossed out this awful romance plot and just continued with the fun humor- the movie should have been about Goldie in the military and that would have been fun- what this movie should have been- pure fun. The ending just leaves a bad impression, which is a shame since Goldie (who also took the part of executive producer) meant very well. It seems this is only the first draft. At fault are the writers, who produced many fun moments and then just lost all ideas.

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