90’s Nostalgia: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

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Leonardo DiCaprio has always been my favorite actor ever since his role in “Gangs of New York”. I have watched all of his films since then and he has proved himself as a versatile and engaging actor. One of his best performances was in 1993’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”.

The film is about Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) a young man living in a dead-end small town with a very dysfunctional family. Gilbert’s father committed suicide a few years ago which causes Gilbert’s mother to sink into a depression of never leaving the house and gaining weight from overeating. Gilbert’s younger brother Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a mentally handicapped teenager who is about to celebrate his 18th birthday and falls under Gilbert’s responsibility.

Gilbert juggles caring for Arnie with providing for his family. A new awakening in Gilbert’s life comes in the form of Becky (Juliette Lewis), a free-spirited girl who makes a stop in his town due to car trouble. Gilbert begins to discover that there is more to life than where he currently is.

When I first saw this movie many years ago I was taken aback by just how emotionally invested it gets you. Gilbert has the entire weight of being the sole responsible figure for his family. He does not have any time to himself or to even dare to dream about what he wants for his own life.

Johnny Depp does a good job as Gilbert but it is DiCaprio who steals the show.  DiCaprio embodies Arnie’s disability completely; Arnie’s mannerisms and fun-loving nature is quite innocent to behold. It is quite amazing to watch DiCaprio give a very human and down to earth performance.

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