Salt-of-the-earth mechanic Benny (Aidan Quinn) has devoted his life to taking care of his younger sister “Joon” (Mary Stuart Masterson) – short for Juniper – who is very bright but suffering from an unspecified mental disorder (apparently a form of schizophrenia).
When their part-time housekeeper leaves, they acquire an eccentric replacement, Sam (Johnny Depp) – a dyslexic lost soul with a love of silent comedy – when brother Benny loses a poker bet.
Sam perches in trees, recites lines from obscure B Movies, and keeps house for the Pearls in his own silent and sweet fashion – making grilled cheese sandwiches on the ironing board and mashing potatoes with a tennis racket.
Meanwhile, Benny is staving off the advances of a former horror movie starlet named Ruthie (Julianne Moore) who has run away from the Hollywood fleshpots to become a waitress in the Pacific Northwest.
You’ll either find this so-so romantic fable a whimsical joy or annoyingly eccentric, as beguiling spaniel-eyed man-child Depp woos mentally unstable Masterson, much to her overprotective brother’s concern.
Depp’s silent movie skills – much in evidence because his character is besotted with Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin – are truly remarkable.
Juniper ‘Joon’ Pearl
Mary Stuart Masterson
Benjamin ‘Benny’ Pearl
William H. Macy