COUNTRY:         USA 1994
MUSIC:                ALAN PARKER
CAST:                  Johnny Depp (Gilbert), Juliette Lewis (Becky), Mary Steenburgen (Betty), Leonardo DiCaprio (Arnie), Darlene Cates (Mama), John C. Reilly.
SUPER FEATURES: Nice film, may have been better if made in Sweden.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a nice film. And it reminds me of another film the same director made, called My Life as a Dog. The main difference here is the characters are a bit older, and they are in American lands, way out in the middle of nowhere. And bored. And mainly alone. And very often desperate.

The story if Gilbert, is more than anything, the story of his younger brother who is disabled, and is the only drive that keeps the film going. While Gilbert is moody, in his teens, Arnie is a much younger, a bit wild, and slow kid that is growing up, but his disability, while a hassle and a chore, still Gilbert takes the time to care for him. And it interferes with his desires and chances for doing something that he cares for. His mother has become disabled as well, and in the process and not helpful. The children kinda run the show.

While the story of this film is nothing to tell anyone about, originality does not abound, really, it is the performances that make it. Johnny Depp, may not be the best actor around, and neither is the cast around him, but they all stand out very well, and do a nice job that is not a hamm job, playing characters that we see everyday, and tend to ignore as much as possible. The real kudos here go to Leonardo DiCaprio for his portrayal of the disabled Arnie, who is growing into a very tough situation that is getting easier and at the same time tougher for him. And Arnie has competition now. But he seems to be taking to it well. Gilbert has a new friend, and that friend is better than the sisters and everyone else around.

The midwest was never this drab, was it.? Excellent film to watch for the performances. Mary Steenburgen, is very good as a frustrated housewife who has been trying to enjoy Gilbert's company, but she is also on the destructive path that every one seems to be taking in that town.

In "My Life as A Dog", the escape was a little boxing, which provided that something that helped the characters feel better about themselves. In this film, it is a little bit of loving and caring. The frustrated wife, mama, and just about anyone else, have all failed, and have not found themselves a connection anywhere that inspires them to live and enjoy their life. The different one, Arnie, has no needs like the others. He finds fun in many simple things.

Very pleasant film, a bit slow developing, but it does get better. See it for the acting, because all else might leave you wondering why you went to see it. The ensemble is very good. And well directed.





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