A young man who's never left his small town struggles to care for
his mentally impaired younger brother and morbidly obese mother.
What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
Directed by Lasse Hallström
Written by Peter Hedges
Starring Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Lewis,
Darlene Cates, Mary Steenburgen, Laura Harrington,
Mary Kate Schellhardt, Kevin Tighe, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover
Based on the novel by Peter Hedges
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio)
For the longest time, my biggest issue with What's Eating Gilbert Grape had been the title, which makes the film sound like a game show. Now that I've finally watched it, my new big issue is the dreary, predictable plot. The performances are decent, namely Leonardo DiCaprio as the mentally impaired Arnie, but every opportunity the film has to venture into uncharted territory is ignored. Plus, Gilbert (Depp) never actually has to make any tough decisions. The decisions are made for him, which sort of undermines the whole point that the movie is trying to make.
Johnny Depp is Gilbert Grape, a young, depressed man whose entire life is devoted to helping his younger brother Arnie and his morbidly obese mother (Cates). Something's missing, and he doesn't know what. He's never left his Iowa town and he's having an affair with a married woman (Steenburgen), in a subplot that goes nowhere. One day, he meets Becky (Lewis), a woman who shows him opportunity beyond his town and his family. Throughout the film, Arnie causes a lot of trouble, and the rest of Gilbert's family doesn't really do anything to help him. What he should've done was cut his losses and go with Becky. We never get that essential scene where Gilbert gets to voice how much this family has unfairly depended on him. I was waiting for it, but it never came.
What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a melodrama that underutilizes great actors like Depp, DiCaprio, Steenburgen, and even John C. Reilly and Crispin Glover. It just feels like you're going through the motions as we trudge our way towards the inevitable conclusion of our half-written love story. But the performances are good, and I do like most of the characters.