158 of 167 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: What's Eating Gilbert Grape (DVD)
"What's Eating Gilbert Grape" is a deeply moving glimpse into the frustration, sadness and triumph of love in what some would classify as a dysfunctional family. As the mentally retarded Arnie, Leonardo DiCaprio turns in an incredibly realistic performance; his gestures, his often repetitive speech...everything about his acting seems so perfect for the role he plays. (And I say this as one who has worked with the mentally retarded). It is no wonder he received an Oscar nomination. The story is told mainly through the eyes of Johnny Depp's character, Gilbert who despite his deep love for Arnie is still frustrated by the limitations that caring for Arnie places on his life. Top that off with a morbidly obese mother whom Gilbert is (reluctantly) ashamed of and a younger sister who is an oftentimes irritating troublemaker and you can see why Gilbert sometimes yearns for life to be a little easier. As a clerk in the local grocery store, Gilbert has fallen into a relationship with an older married woman (played by Mary Steenburgen) but finds himself drawn to a new girl in town (Juliette Lewis) with whom he develops a friendly, then caring relationship. Strained relations with the town's law enforcement officials ensue after Arnie repeatedly climbs the water tower and Arnie is arrested. Gilbert's mother played by Darlene Cates) who hasn't left the house in seven years, takes matters into her own hands and the results are at once triumphant and tragic. Depp is marvelous as Gilbert. His sense of despair and self hatred after he loses control and hits Arnie seem totally realistic and understandable. The younger sister who seems like such a brat at the beginning becomes more humanized as we see her vulnerability. The mother's battle with shame and humiliation over her obesity makes us all more attuned to our own shameful insensitivity. Quirky, no doubt, sad - no doubt again. But ultimately, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" turns out to be a testament to love, caring and family loyalty. A marvelous movie.