What’s Eating Gilbert Grape


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From the novel of the same name by Peter Hedges

This review contains a MAJOR SPOILER, just so you know..

Gilbert lives with his EXTEMELY eccentric family, and tries to have a life.

Well, this one was problematical…on the one hand, there were excellent actors in it, starting with a VERY young Johnny Depp, Serious Honey even before having all his teeth capped (almost cuter then, hm) in a very good role; Leonardo Di Caprio, by no stretch of the imagination a honey, but just amazingly good as Depp’s younger, mentally handicapped brother, and Juliette Lewis (might also be a honey, we’ll see) whom we last saw as the teenage girl in From Dusk Til Dawn. Oh, and Mary Steenburgen, whom Mr. Otter thinks is a total honey. And the people playing the other roles were good too.

So here you have this wonderful pool of acting talent, a script full of small town nutcases, a wacky family with many internal conflicts…but the movie just really doesn’t go anywhere.

Yes, Depp finds love with Lewis, and that’s really nicely done, and it’s fun to watch everyone interact and see their lives either come together and come apart, and the kids are fiercely protective of their mom…but the ending just totally blew it for me.

realpolTHEY SET FIRE TO THE HOUSE? Now, granted, it’s run down, they think there is no way to have their mom taken to the morgue without people making fun of her, they’re emotionally overwrought, and of course the house burning down makes a lovely metaphor for ending their old enabling ways of life and starting over. Not to mention being damn cool, cinematographically.

But seriously. Who would do that? Even if they hate the house and plan to move, they all need money and a place to live. One of the kids is 15, too young for a job and income. And even if the house is run down, they could sell it for SOMETHING. Plus there were a dozen solutions to the problem of getting the mom downstairs without the indignity of using a crane.

And why did she go upstairs (which exertion obviously caused her heart attack) anyway? Just so she could kick off and advance the plot? makes no sense.

Ah well. It was fun to watch, a lot of good characters, and a Serious Honey. Rent it, enjoy it, don’t expect too much.

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