Director Lasse Hallstrom was best known for his famous movie ‘My life as a dog’ (1985) by which he gained an international audience. He was a popular director in his birth country Sweden and is attracted to emotional family related storylines but tries to avoid sentimentality. After directing the famous film ‘The cider house rules’ (1999) he received his second academy award nomination which completely lifted his career. In 2000 he came out with ‘Chocolat’ and this was realistic and truly enchanting for audiences.
What’s eating Gilbert grape is a film about a man called Gilbert (Depp) who has a younger handicapped 18 year old brother called Arnie (Dicaprio). He also has two younger sisters Amy who is the older one and her job is to cook and clean everything, then there’s the younger one Ellen who’s just the typical teenager. Gilberts father died about eight years ago and ever since then his mother hasn’t stepped foot out of the house and has become severely overweight weighing 500 pounds due to comfort eating. Gilbert is now the father figure of the house and is his job to look after everything especially Arnie his handicapped brother.
Dicaprio plays his role remarkably well and the audience is captured by the way he plays being disabled so amazingly as the audience is actually brought to think that the then unpopular actor was truly handicapped. Depp also plays Gilbert grape astonishingly and it is striking to see all of his tensions he has to cope with.
As well as having to put up with the piled up stress of his family which is to enough to drive him towards suicide , Gilbert also has a job at the local store which is being trampled out of business by the supermarket ‘Food land’ across the road. He is also having a mixed up affair with a crazy married woman Mrs. Betty Carver (Steenburgen) whose husband Mr. Carver owns the local insurance company.
His affair with Mrs Carver is really just to get away from his hectic family problems there isn’t any lust or romance in their relationship whatsoever. The camera effects are excellent and are just perfectly used especially when Gilbert is at Mrs Carver’s house and whilst they are making love on the table we see Mr Carvers heading popping up and down in the window as he is on the trampoline. Another good use of camera work is again when Gilbert is at the Carver’s house and whilst he is on the phone to Mr Carver the camera is shot on the upper half of his body so it looks as though Betty is giving him pleasure however you cant see it but just work it out from Gilberts facial expressions.
A more serious part of the film where the visual aids and sound effects are put in good use is when the Grape family are all sat in their living room and Ellen comes in to tell them about Mr Carver’s death and we know that Gilbert is very tense and stressed out about everything and to sum up the drama and tension in the room there are really loud train noises coming from the television. The director has used prosthetics to make the film even more realistic by having the mother wear a fat suit so she looks morbidly obese.