feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is supposed to be a film that manages to hit the emotional puddle that sinks us into the tearful hearts and hopeful dreams of its characters, equalling films like Like Father Like Son or Mommy. Through Lasse Hallstrom’s direction, it consumes the material in a manner that is suffocating, dampening the film’s potential, sapping in sentiment that no longer earns that balancing act of artificiality and naturalism that would provide a simultaneous escapism and empathy.
He shapes the performances of his cast that ensures the feeding of his primary thematic intentions, with Depp confined in his role with a sense of rigidity that unfortunately fails to uncover the complexity that runs beneath the character, and DiCaprio baited upon with a strong performance that is moulded into the narrative, existing as the main chaos that is within their family, fittingly not provided with a revelatory arc, but much like Depp, still confined in the traits of its filmmaker.
It is a film that is not afraid to cuddle its audience, to swell the score when its key scenes hit upon our screen, to break us like the characters themselves, creating a parallel experience between audience and character that fails to convey authenticity. The relationships that are built upon with its protagonist, the catalysts that would eventually expose the crux of his position and would become the critical element that would absorb all of our hopes towards its ultimate resolution.
Nevertheless, it is a film that manages to warm you within as you endure through it, with only afterwards that its intentions are tainted and falsified in the hopes of a more simplified outcome. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape succeeds in passing the necessary criteria for competency, but lacks the genuine ambition and ambiguity that would have brought it the status of an immediate classic.