also known as Sweet Jersey, occasionally known as Nothing to Lose
Cast: Adrien Brody, Michael Gallagher, Sybil Temchen, Tony Gillan, James E. Moriarty, Lisa Roberts Gillan, Frank Vincent.
Written & Directed by: Eric Bross
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Released: April 9, 1995
MPAA Rating: R
Ten Benny is one of those films that is kind of hit and miss. It comes close to greatness many times, but comes close to cheesy nearly as often.
Adrien’s Role: Ray Diglovanni Jr.
On paper, our main character, Ray (Adrien Brody) is… well… an a**h***. The relationship with his long-suffering girlfriend, Joanne, is a troubling one. He seems to have little to no respect for his father (although that changes some), he fails his friends at every turn, and he basically uses his job as a way to make connections for his gambling addiction.
Now, the addiction itself isn’t necessarily his fault, but the way he schemes and connives his loved ones doesn’t make Ray all that likable. Gambling takes priority over everything else, which, I guess, is an accurate depiction of addiction. But it’s hard to root for Ray much of the time. If you knew a young man like Ray in real life, I think you’d tire of him quickly.
What redeems Ray, however, is that he’s played by Adrien Brody. What I mean by that is, Brody brings an underlying likability and charm to even the jerkiest of jerk characters. There is emotion in his eyes that makes him more of a whole person than the “bad guy” he is on paper. The hangdog expressions make you feel badly for him, even when he’s being a total schmuck. His smiles and smirks help us understand why people are so quick to forgive him when he screws them over. And why Joanne loves him, despite his treatment of her.
Joanne/”Jo” (Sybil Temchen) has been with Ray for an unclear amount of time. According to the story at the start of the film, it’s nine years; however, she states at one point that it’s been three years. At any rate, as a young woman just turning 21 in our story, she’s dedicated a fair percentage of her life to loving this guy. And it is very clear she is not a priority in his life. He cheats on her with multiple women, verbally abuses her (and physically intimidates her) and generally treats her as an inconvenience. And yet, we soon learn Ray plans to surprise Joanne with a marriage proposal on her birthday and goes so far as to pick out and purchase a ring. Umm… okay. To Jo’s credit, she finds this very odd, as well, once Ray tells her the plan.
Mike (Michael Gallagher), who is supposed to be the film’s “hero” type (the story is told mostly from his perspective), is considered Ray’s best friend. They’ve known each other (and their friend Butchie, whom we’ll discuss next) since childhood, yet their relationship is not without the tension all of Ray’s other relationships have.
Honestly, I found Mike to be quite wooden at times, to the point where it is distracting (and detracting). This could be a flaw in the writing, in the performance of Gallagher, or a combination. Mike just seems… out of place. Part of that is intentional, as he’s a “college boy” and his friends aren’t. Even taking that into account, Mike stands out as someone who doesn’t quite belong in this movie.
Thank Heaven For Butchie
Butch/”Butchie” (Tony Gillan), on the other hand, is absolutely fantastic. The character is fully fleshed out, Gillan’s performance is wonderful, and the relationship between “Butchie” and Ray is arguably the strongest one in the story. Butch is the conscience of the group who calls people out on their misdeeds (Ray and Mike, particularly). He is also a very loyal and brave character. I found myself more impressed with Butch upon re-watching.
Overall, it’s a good film, but its unevenness keeps it from achieving its full potential.
Movie Overall: 6/10
Brody Performance: 7/10