WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE
Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Johnny Depp,
Juliette Lewis, Mary Steenburgen, Leonardo DiCaprio, John C. Reilly
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: November 27, 2001
“Gilbert, tell me what you want
as fast as it comes to you.”
“I wanna be a good person.”
If one found themselves living the life Gilbert Grape
lives, especially in a hugely populated area, he or she might rather prefer
death. Gilbert leads a life that has it’s individual moments of joy in them,
but for the most part, it’s a living hell, especially when it comes to
catering to his intensely dysfunctional family. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
is an endearing and gentle account of a very eccentric family struggling to make
it amidst all the jokes made of them by the townsfolk. Featuring a first rate
cast, many of them unknowns or rising stars at the time, and a purely
breathtaking scenery, this makes for two hours of heartwarming entertainment.
Gilbert, played by Johnny Depp, is a hapless grocery store
employee. The other members of the family include his younger brother Arnie,
played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the role that put him on the Hollywood map of
stardom. Arnie is mentally retarded, and Gilbert constantly has to keep a close
eye on him to make sure that he doesn’t do anything outrageous, such as
frequent attempts to climb the town’s water tower and wave to everybody.
Gilbert’s mom (Darlene Cates) is an extremely obese woman, who was a beauty in
her younger years, who is now reduced to never leaving the house and having
things, such as meals, brought to her.
Gilbert is facing another dilemma in his life. Lonely and
unsatisfied housewife Mrs. Carver (Mary Steenburgen) is desperate for frequent
sexual meetings with Gilbert on his grocery delivery rounds. All of that seems
to come to an end once young Becky (Juliette Lewis) catches his attention.
She’s a drifter, living in an RV with her grandmother, and she is in town
indefinitely until the RV can get repaired. Unexpectedly, Gilbert and Becky
share a romance that might drive her to stay much longer than expected.
This is a nice little film, filled with heart, humor, and thoughtfulness of its subject matter, which is that of keeping a family together. Johnny Depp, as always, brings yet another unique character to life and makes the character all his own. Leonardo DiCaprio, who garnered a noteworthy Oscar nod for his performances her, is remarkable in the role of the mentally challenged Arnie. Talk about the most difficult performance to pull off.
Beautifully directed by Sweden Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules, Chocolat), and performed remarkably by a perfectly fit cast of actors, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is sweet and gentle account of an eccentric family that is both honest and earnest.
For a film that displays a
unique sense of beauty in its look and scenery, Paramount has done this
presentation very well. The film takes place in mostly outdoor settings, which
is displayed in pure clearness and vibrant greens and browns. It’s only in a
few darkly lit scenes midway in the film where the image appears a bit soft.
Other than that, a nice looking presentation overall.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a subtle, quiet film at best that relies heavily on dialogue, so the audio track that Paramount has provided is a good one, which means good enough to suffice a film of this kind. Dialogue is heard with definite crispness, and other distinct sounds are picked up well, too. A good sounding disc, but just don’t be expecting anything state-of-the-art, because a film of this magnitude doesn’t provide it.
Just a trailer.