Tuesday, May 08, 2007
What's Eating Gilbert Grape
I have to admit that Leonardo DiCaprio has never been my favourite actor, no matter how highly Scorsese spoke of him, no matter how violently his films smashed the box office records, no matter how many young girls almost died from drooling over him. He just never made me want to watch any movies he was in, aside from Titanic (it's a good storyline after all, so it wasn't because of Leo).
I've never been a fan of Johnny Depp either. To cut it short, pretty actors don't fool me. Up until last night, I believed that Depp and Leo were just innit for the big moolah, and that their looks were the only reason why Hollywood didn't slam the door in their faces.
Enters What's Eating Gilbert Grape, a movie about philadelphia i.e. brotherly love (please go learn some Greek will ya?). Well, actually, it's not really that. It's more about the life of Gilbert Grape, a young man who becomes the sole breadwinner of his family after his father's death. Wait, I'm still not entirely sure. Is it actually about the difficulties of raising a retarded brother while also caring for a morbidly obese mother who can barely move a bone?
Come to think of it, that's the beauty of the film. You can't sum everything up in one sentence, as it won't do justice to it. For a start, I'll say I really loved it.
It's set in a tiny town called Endora, practically a no man's land where people probably don't move much, but they sure are nosy. Gilbert (Depp) works at Lamson, a little grocery store (everything is a "store" in the USA) suffering from sales decline due to the opening of Food Land, a new, flashy hypermarket where everybody goes. Having to constantly supervise Arnie (Leo), his retarded brother who's soon turning 18, everything becomes complicated with the presence of a new hottie in town, Becky ((Juliette Lewis). She's a well-travelled girl, the result of having lived in a camper with his mother all her life. They settle in Endora since their big, silver camper is in need of a repair.
However, Becky is not Gilbert's only problem (if you call falling in love a problem). Gilbert - despite being a good-hearted young man who puts his family above everything else - has long started an affair with Mrs. Carver, the wife of the local insurance salesman. He knows he must stop the dangerous liaison in order to start something up with Becky. All this while, through no fault of his own, he's been abandoning his own dreams. Through Becky, he sees what he needs. Someone to talk to, someone to listen to, someone to share everything with, and someone who accepts him, his retarded brother and his whale of a mother just the way they are. Becky makes him realise he has been sloughing off his desires for years, and she is his reward.
Of course, with his responsibilities towards his own large family, it's impossible to think that he can make room for another person in his life. Plus, he has a secret affair with someone's wife which obviously doesn't make things easier.
In this movie, Depp is amazing. He knows how to make his eyes speak, loud. It's not easy playing a guy who's holding back a lot of emotions, at the point of breaking down. He doesn't have a lot of dialogues to work with, but he pulls it off with a brilliant acting.
However, Leo DiCaprio is the true star in this movie. He doesn't act like a retarded 18 year-old, he is a retarded 18 year-old in this movie. He perfectly embodies a troublesome but lovable child and he completely captures the soul of Arnie. And to think that he was only 19 when he played Arnie! Wow, as much as I hate to say it, he's put himself in my A-list (which, up until now, only has Sean Penn and Reese Witherspoon in it).
What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a marvellous drama, and if you expect something sappy and overwhelmingly over-the-top, it's everything but that. Although it runs at too slow a pace, the movie will still enchant you from the beginning right to the end. Please, I beg of you, watch it.
Post-scriptum : Watching this, I'm constantly reminded of Adik, a 1990 Malay film with Mustafa Kamal as the overprotective big brother of a retarded and also troublesome Mr. Os, and Noralbaniah as the hottie. The only difference is that Noralbaniah, while also being a striking beauty, never liked Mr. Os. She ridiculed him for being retarded and she even made Mustafa Kamal choose between her and his retarded brother. Come to think of it, old Malay films actually had the substance, only that the studios were lacking in funds.
Posted by Kahuna at 6:28 AM