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What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

Life is a terrible thing to sleep through.

Directed by:

Lasse Hallström

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 118 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12

On DVD

Country: United States

What’s eating Gilbert Grape? The question, in case you’re wondering, isn’t supposed to be taken literally. If it was, the answer could very well be his mum, given that she’s the size of a small van yet none of her numerous offspring appear to be holding down the sort of steady, full-time jobs which would surely be required to keep her in vittles.

Having a colossal mother (Darlene Cates, a big lady making a big debut) isn’t the least of Gilbert’s problems. With Dad having long since snuffed it, it’s been left more or less down to him (he’s played by Johnny Depp) to look after the whole family, including his mentally disabled younger brother Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Added stress is thrown onto his pile by the constant attentions of the local desperate housewife (Mary Steenburgen) and the presence of a brand new trailer-travelling girlfriend (Juliette Lewis). Oh, and Arnie keeps getting into trouble with the police for repeatedly climbing the water tower in the middle the tiny Iowa town where they all live (it’s a place called Endora, which is not to be confused with that planet with all the Ewoks).

This is a fascinating movie, as it could equally be perceived to be about both nothing and everything. Gilbert’s life is fraught with problems, and Depp plays him as a young man slowly falling apart at the seams as the film progresses. Yet, at the same time, very little actually happens. The biggest singular event being built towards is Arnie’s 18th birthday, but it’s perhaps a metaphor for the way many people will feel about the movie itself that he’s unable to properly appreciate it. DiCaprio picked up an Academy Award nomination for what is basically his portrayal of a mini Rain Man and, given Oscar’s ongoing love affair with such characters, that’s probably no major surprise.

Written by Peter Hedges (his screenplay is based on his own novel of the same name) and directed by the Swedish helmsman Lasse Hallstrom, ‘Gilbert Grape’ overcomes its own overly-lengthy self-indulgence by presenting us with likable, sympathetic characters played against a backdrop oozing both warmth and whimsy in equal measure. It’s funny in places too, which helps to break up the sporadic melodrama and provide us with a touching, thoughtful and always watchable piece of work.

It's Got: A tank of live lobsters, a vaguely educational piece of information about the sex life of the praying mantis, and some extremely bad luck with a cake.

It Needs: Reinforced floorboards.

DVD Extras A trailer and some interviews. Version reviewed Whats Eating Gilbert Grape [1993] also from Amazon.com DVD Extras Rating: 3/10

Alternatives:

Rain Man, The Good Girl

Summary

A comedy-drama that gives you food for thought.

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One Comment

  1. Posted February 26, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I loved this film, really beautiful, well acted too. I disagree that DiCaprio got his Oscar nomination just because the Oscars like actors playing disabled people. DiCaprio was absolutely spot-on in this, just brilliant. And comparing Arnie to Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man is a little strange to me, as Arnie had some sort of severe brain damage and Raymond was an autistic savant. Two very different things…

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