What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Year: 1993
Production Co: J&M Entertainment
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writer: Peter Hedges
Cast: Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Lewis, Laura Harrington, Mary Steenburgen, John C Reilly, Crispin Glover

Johnny Depp hadn't quite completed his transformation from teen idol to the quirky iconoclast he is today with this film. Everything about it signposts the independent dramedies he'd shine in soon after, but Depp himself didn't look entirely comfortable to me, still coasting on his good looks and only just beginning to stretch his thespian wings.

The actor who did look perfectly at home was Leo DiCaprio. As brothers Gilbert and Arnie respectively, they live with two sisters and a mother who's obese to the point of physical disability.

Gilbert tries to generate and retain some semblance of normality, including his burgeoning relationship with local girl Becky (Lewis), but with his mentally disabled brother Arnie, a mother who can't even leave the house and sisters with their hands full of their own problems, the odds are against him.

It takes a lot of soul searching and at least one tragedy before Gilbert learns that even though his family is kookier than most, they're the only one he's got and he'll never be able to become his own man without loving them for all their faults.

Lasse Hallström's direction is uncluttered and unshowy, letting the characterisations bought to such vibrant life in the novel and the good cast do his work for him. The film marked the arrival of both Depp as the actor he'd become and DiCaprio as one of the best actors of such tender years ever.

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