What's Eating Gilbert Grape

What's Eating Gilbert Grape ★★★★

Offering a slice of small town, middle-American life, Lasse Hallström's "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" finds a family struggling through its day-to-day and taking quiet comfort in its members' subtle quirks. It is an appealing, fully-felt drama.

Set in Endora, Iowa, Hallström's film observes the Grapes, a family of five, residing in a ramshackle country home. That observation is more important than plot, as the story finds its strength in the near-literary personalities and interactions of the work's characters.

Johnny Depp stars as Gilbert, a young man forced into a father role after the death of his own. Depp is graceful and full of gravity in the role. As Arnie, a mentally challenged 18-year-old, Leonardo DiCaprio is heartwrenching.

Hallström presents a lived-in Endora where peeling paint and rusted Chevys are few miles from the progress of a new fast food joint. It is an ideal representation of characters who are always a few steps away from leaving the weedy comfort of home.

Endearing and sincere, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" is an engagingly told and assembled success. Featuring stellar performances and cogent direction, that success is built on recognizable characters exuding recognizable rhythms.

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