Question: What’s eating Gilbert Grape? Answer: Nothing. He lives at the end. I know a lot of horror film fans were misled by the title of this film. Sorry about that. The truth is, I wanted to call it What’s Buggin Gilbert Grape, but my producers felt that was too close to John Singleton’s then-upcoming epic, What’s Buggin Thoze Boyz N’ Tha Hood. A change had to be made, and I made it while munching some food. Again, sorry.
But to those who wanted a boring drama about freaks and retards, your welcome!
So there is this family. It’s not the most fucked up or weirdest family in movie history or anything, but they’re pretty messed up. I mean, Rob Zombie’s not impressed, but still…weird family. The Klumps are way worse, but still…different than normal. Let’s put it this way, if the only thing you’ve ever seen in your life is Home for the Holidays or Meet the Parents, then this is one weird and fucked up family.
Let’s just start at the top:
Momma: Momma is big. Cannot wear sweatpants big. Dinner for four, four times a day big. Is that sweat or grease big. Cannot stand up big. No shower or bath big. Might eat Gilbert Grape big.
She’s mean, too, that special kind of lady who DOES NOT TAKE SHIT from telemarketers.
Arnie: Arnie is retarded. He’s played by Horatio Pistachio, who went full-retard with the role and therefore only got nominated. This is not a cute retard. This is a might try to punch you kind of retard. He wants to jump off the water tower, but no one will let him. He kills bugs for fun, then cries about it later. He doesn’t even know how to get out of a bathtub. He’s a full time job, and you have to provide your own rubber gloves and sawdust. Such a dreamboat, though.
Gilbert: Gilbert is the sad sack of shit who has to take care of these lunatics. The big secret is that he’s retarded too. No, I’m just kidding…he’s actually just an idiot.
I think the movie might take place in Kansas. I was imagining Kansas when I made it, so you should imagine Kansas when you watch it. A sad young man named Gilbert Grape watches the world pass him by. He could be doing other things, but the duties of life have shackled his youth to an obese mother and ultra-retarded brother. By the time they’re both dead, he won’t look like Johnny Depp anymore.
He works full time at a local grocery store. There used to be job security in it since it was the only actual commercial operation in town, but things are starting to change. A Wal-Mart has bribed its way into town. There goes another cute hunk of Americana down the drain. Fucking corporations! How’s mom and pop gonna get by when the community will no longer support 400% markups? This is bullshit! Of course, Gilbert Grape would never say that. Even thinking such a thing is far too confrontational for Gilbert Grape.
The only sex Gilbert has been able to slice off is with Mary Steenburgen, who was already elderly by age twenty. His best friend is John C. Reilly. His second best friend is Crispin Glover. Neither of these guys are quite on the level either. Actually, the whole town is kind of like a witness protection program for swing-vote retards.
This is the life of Gilbert Grape. It doesn’t necessarily have to change. It’s not like he’s dying for something better. He doesn’t even know that “better” exists. He’s fine with his Deliverance mixed with Pleasantville world.
But then Juliette Lewis shows up. Basically, Juliet Lewis is a drug that kinda sorta learned how to look like a person: either a spunky lady or an ugly teenage boy, depending on your perspective. In some movies she’s an upper; in others she’s a downer. She’s in downer mode for this one, but Gilbert’s life moves so slow that for him she’s actually an upper.
Once she shows up, things start changing for Gilbert. She asks him questions no one’s bothered asking him before. Questions like, “You take care of your brother, you take care of your mother…who takes care of you, Gilbert?” And, “Wouldn’t it just be easier if you didn’t have to deal with your brother so much?” And, “Why don’t you just kill that fat bitch?”
She’s only around long enough for her aunt to fix their RV’s fat tire. When it’s time for her to go, she kisses Gilbert on the cheek. “Think about what I said. You have to fight for your right to party.” Then she rides out of his life forever. Gilbert never sees the part where she gets hunted down by Stuntman Mike.
Regardless, those questions have a profound effect on him. As if by magic, he can now see his hideous life through her eyes, and it’s sickening. Just then, Arnie climbs the water tower, flicking the imaginary inch at the end of his nose and daring to jump. Gilbert saves him, takes him home, and drowns him in a cold bathtub.
Then, he stalks through the house, pouring gasoline on everything while his mother screams. Her voice is unnatural and scary because she’s been drinking melted butter through a straw all day. Gilbert covers her with gasoline, too. “I’m doing this to save your dignity, mother,” he says. After which, he shoves a shiny red apple in her mouth and takes pictures.
It takes twenty minutes for the house to burn down. Two hours later though, that large bump in the middle is still going strong. Gilbert tries not to smile as people offer their condolences. He can see now that he is no longer one of them and leaves as soon as his insurance check comes in. Bonus points for saving money on the cremation, Gilbert! His trapped spirit can now soar. Like an eagle on the wind. This is a good movie. You can watch it with your girlfriend.
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey