Quote from: The Best of Superstars 1995

 

Leonardo DiCaprio in What´s Eating Gilbert Grape

 

'The gifted young actor DiCaprio has won justified raves for his tour de force as Arnie Grape," New York magazine said. But we agree with Premiere, who said: "DiCaprio plays Johnny's retarded younger brother and his performance is so uncanny and touching and inspiring that you want to give him ten Best Supporting Oscars just so he'll stop and promise never to do it again." Michael Atkinson commented, "'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' is far from a congenital defect-of-the-week soaper. It regards the whole town with the same genuine affection and healthy sense of humor it holds for Arnie (DiCaprio). Unlike most movie locales, this town is full of people who speak in natural cadences and say unpredictable things. Arnie is the center of the Grape cyclone, a mentally retarded teenager who finds trouble like a fly finds dogshit. Keeping Arnie happy and clean is a full-time job, and one Gilbert begins to resent once he strikes up a romance with free-spirit Juliette Lewis, who's passing through town. DiCaprio, who also won acclaim in last year's 'This Boy's Life,' does the best retarded character I've ever seen in a movie. He does what Dustin Hoffman thought he was doing in 'Rain Man.' I know what I'm talking about, too; my 30-year-old brother was born brain injured/autistic, and I've been around the mentally handicapped my whole life. As you'd expect, few things piss me off more than movies that can't tell an authentic 'special' person from Jerry Lewis--and most can't. DiCaprio is so faultless in his portrayal, especially his stunted body language, that it's easy to forget he's normal. Arnie's not just a handicap, he's a whole character, with a life story."

"In desolate backwater Endora, Iowa, delivery boy Gilbert Grape (Depp) tends to his mentally unstable brother Arnie, his gigantically overweight mother (Cates), and his sexually frustrated customers. Nothing happens in Endora. Nothing, except that every few weeks the uncontrollable Arnie scales a precipitous amenity tower to great public acclaim, and once a year, a glowing trail of camper-vans bursts over the horizon. 'We don't move much,' Gilbert tells Becky (Lewis), an alluring road dweller whose lack of anchorage excites and seduces him. Adapted by Peter Hedges from his own novel, this comedy-drama fits snugly into Hallstrom's quirky oeuvre. Like 'My Life As A Dog,' it features a young actor (DiCaprio) from whom Hallstrom coaxes a nenormously impressive performance. And, as with the oddly unreleasable 'Once Around,' it treats its adults as warts n'all weirdies, spiky unresolved individuals who are neither wholly good nor bad -just odd. More significantly, 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape?' continues Depp's growing obsession with 'non-judgmental' scripts. As one of the most physically striking young men in Hollywood, Depp's repeated refusal to exploit his teen-idol features, and his fondness for films which decry external appearances is both admirable and rewarding. Although credit is due to screen newcomer Cates, whose vast proportions led her from a life of isolation to chat show celebrity, it's Depp and DiCaprio who engage our sympathies, and who allow us to view their chaotic family through unprejudiced eyes. If all this sounds a little po-faced, fear not; the laughs are plentiful, the characters genuinely engaging and the direction mercifully lacking in tooth-rotting schmaltz."Tall, narrow and pale, Leo has a focus about him, Wells asserts, an air of quiet consideration. And there's a lot to consider. The actor received raves for his career-making work in "This Boy's Life" and now, building on the momentum of signing with the top agency CAA, his main order of business, he says, is to avoid "making big dumb, shitty movies."

*

FILMOGRAPHY

MAIN