What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

As it happens, this is a very good film about a family beset not only with a retarded son/brother, but a reclusive mother of Brobdingnagian proportions who is the focus of fascinated ridicule in the town.   However, the real reason you should see it is because of a performance by the 19-year old Leonardo DiCaprio that may be one of the most amazing ever given by anyone of that age or, come to think of it, anyone ever.

He plays Arnie, the mentally ill younger brother of the eponymous Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp), and it is impossible to believe that this is the same guy who starred in Titanic.  Unlike Dustin Hoffman's Rainman or Cliff Robertson's Charley or Harrison Ford's (RegardingHenry, all of which were very well done, DiCaprio's Arnie is not a cleaned up,  cinematic idealization of benign aberration, but a full-out, nose-picking, dirty fingernailed blast of reflected reality that, to anyone who has known such real-life unfortunates, is truly awe-inspiring.  The only thing more mind-boggling is that he didn't win the best supporting actor Oscar or Golden Globe for which he was nominated.

And the kid's no flash in the pan, either, as witness This Boy's Life and Marvin's Room.  One only hopes that, like Pacino, Malkovich and Duvall, he has the self-confidence and the agent to occasionally forgo the Titanics in favor of the Gilbert Grapes.

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