Life is a terrible thing to sleep through.
Running Time: 118 minutes
US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12
Country: United States
Whats eating Gilbert Grape? The question, in case youre wondering, isnt supposed to be taken literally. If it was, the answer could very well be his mum, given that shes 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) isnt the least of Gilberts problems. With Dad having long since snuffed it, its been left more or less down to him (hes 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 (its 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. Gilberts 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 Arnies 18th birthday, but its perhaps a metaphor for the way many people will feel about the movie itself that hes 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 Oscars ongoing love affair with such characters, thats 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. Its 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.
A comedy-drama that gives you food for thought.