Movie Review: Private Benjamin (1980)

Starring: Goldie Hawn, Eileen Brennan and Armand Assante

Directed by: Howard Zieff

When her husband dies on their wedding night, Judy impulsively decides to join the army after being convinced by the recruiter that it was the right thing to do. Judy soon realises that it may not have been the best decision to make.

Private Benjamin had a really good beginning and middle but due to being released in the eighties the final third of the movie was grossly disappointing. The initial introduction to Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn) was on her wedding day but a mere six hours after getting married her husband dies of a heart attack mid-sex, which was comedy gold as it really set the comedic tone in the right direction. What follows is a few scenes where Judy is wallowing in self pity until she decides to make a drastic, life altering decision and joins the army. She’s mislead by the army recruiter into thinking it’ll be a life of luxury and relative ease but is soon realising that being part of basic training is no joke. The 30/40 minutes that follow where Private Benjamin is at first struggling before eventually excelling in her training is fantastic. I love the comedy involved within the training and Goldie Hawn’s performance was really empowering as she realises that she doesn’t need her father’s to bankroll her or a husband to be happy as she was learning to be independent. There was also a fantastic supporting role in this movie from Eileen Brennan who played Captain Doreen Lewis. She was outstandingly funny and really added great value to Private Benjamin’s progression. I

Unfortunately the final portion of the movie pretty much trampled on the progress made while in training. Private Benjamin travels to Paris to find Henri, a man whom she met after graduating and fell in love with. I found that she unravelled pretty much all the progress she made while going through boot camp and fell back into her old habits of needing a man/husband to live her life with. I suppose though with this film being released in 1980 I feel that this was always going to be the way in which it ended. If a modern day version of this film was to be released I definitely think Judy’s need for a husband would be subsided as merely being a wife is an outdated idea within society as women fight and claw to be on the same platform as a man. If the ending didn’t kill all of Judy’s momentum then I would’ve enjoyed this movie a lot more. One thing I found really strange was the huge oversight and lack of focus on the near rape that Judy Benjamin endured. While that was the reason she was able to be posted to Paris as she could pretty much request anything she wanted, it was as if the potential rape was just brushed under the carpet and forgotten about so I didn’t really see the point in adding it to begin with.

Overall, Private Benjamin was a decent enough movie that nose dived in the final third of the movie. With a better ending this movie could’ve been great as the cadet training and character building was spot on.


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