Had I know Leonardo DiCaprio was in this I probably wouldn't have watched it. As it was, I was glad I did for he gave a terrific performance. Could this have been his first release? When the movie came out the title led me away from it as we were going through some weird movie titles at the time that really had nothing to do with the movie. For once the title and the movie sure seemed to shake hands because we were certainly given insight into just what WAS eating Gilbert.
He lives in a dead-end town, has a dead-end job, his mother is obese, his father committed suicide, his sisters are shrews and his brother is retarded. Throw in a snappy little affair with a frustrated housewife and you gave a guy staring at a crowded sea of faces through empty eyes. What could possibly be eating at this guy anyway?
After pretty much accepting his life will continue its' mundane course until one day he marries a colorless person and have legions of children wallowing in the dirt, he is offered a spark of hope. This spark is the ever surprising Juliette Lewis, chameleon of the screen, telling him of greater worlds and glorious places. Will Gilberts' misery continue or will he be offered a well deserved break?
In my biased Epinion, DiCaprio should have won the Oscar he was nominated for in this movie. I don't know who he was up against but his performance in Gilbert Grape was almost painful to watch, he was that thorough in his study of the mentally challenged brother, Arnie. I am not a DiCaprio fan, at all, but I bow to his performance in this movie.
Darlene Gates, as the 500 pound mother, gave a painfully explosive portrayal as she lumbered into court, her first outing in years, to bail the troubled DiCaprio out of jail. She appears as the protective mamma bear defending her cub but also has a primitive soft side that dwells in the wonderful past, when things were glorious.
Mary Steenburgen as the provocative and horny housewife added nothing to the movie except more pain and heartache to the burdened Gilbert, but she did it well! Another fine performance by a very adaptive actress.
Juliette Lewis - well what can you say about Ms. Lewis? The movie was nestled between her sexy schoolgirl in Cape Fear and her psychotic killer in Natural Born Killers. She gives a spirited performance and, in fact, is portrayed as a free spirit in the movie.
My hat, however, goes to Johnny Depp, at the oppressed and burdened Gilbert Grape. Depp seems to excel in a role that places him on the fringes of society and seems to grow with each new movie. It is strange to see him in Cry Baby then in Sleepy Hollow. He is complacently dependable, I like that.
Bizarre, whimsical, and touching scenes mark WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE. Johnny Depp is Gilbert, the eldest brother in a large family of a very large (morbidly obese, actually) mother (Darlene Cates) who hasn't left the house since her husband committed suicide years before. Leonardo DiCaprio, who received an Academy Award nomination for his role, is Arnie, Gilbert's retarded teenage brother who needs constant supervision (he's often found scaling the town water tower). Caring, passive Gilbert is burdened beyond reason, living a dead-end life in a dying small town, stocking shelves at a grocery store whose business being taken over by the new mall supermarket. Gilbert's best friends (Crispin Glover and John C. Reilly) see their futures in the form of undertaker and Burger Barn owner, and Gilbert's other social life is taken up with a random affair with a frustrated and reckless housewife (Mary Steenburgen). Everyone needs the constantly patient Gilbert, whose future seems equally grim until well-travele...