What's Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
What's Eating Gilbert Grape is essentially a coming of age story set in a small town. Gilbert is a young man living in a small town, and has a lot of responsibility. His father passed away several years ago, he has a mother who is so overweight she barely gets off the couch (much less out of the house), has several younger siblings to take care of, but mainly needs to look after his youngest brother Arnie, who is mentally disabled. Arnie was never supposed to live very long as a baby, but is now about to celebrate his 18th birthday.
This movie is not an overly acclaimed movie, if I'm correct. However, what it's most known for is getting Leonardo DiCaprio his first acting nomination, and what some would say is his very best performance. To be honest, this was pretty much the only reason I put this film on my list. There are a lot of opinions about what Leo's best performance is (and I selected this film before I had seen the Revenant last year), so I really wanted to see what other people saw. Because it was 1994 and Leo was nominated for his first Oscar and was also up against Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List, which is also another fantastic, for the history books performances. So when people always complained that Leo didn't win this Oscar, I always wanted to point to Fiennes also having lost that year, but I wanted to truly see which of the performances was more deserving.
In all honesty, I do actually think this might be Leo's best ever performance. To be fair, I haven't seen his performance in Wolf of Wall Street, but this performance is so unique from a lot of Leo's other performances. Maybe because this was essentially his first big role and what planted him on the map. But his performance here is so pure, and I feel like it's so natural and authentic of children/teens with autism. A friend of mine growing up had an autistic little brother and the character of Arnie and how he acted reminded me a lot of this boy/teen I knew. The mannerisms were just right and the writing behind it felt so true.
Besides Leo's performance, I felt the movie was just kind of okay otherwise. It was a pretty typical coming of age story for Gilbert. He's dealing with all his responsibility of constantly looking after Arnie while also trying to figure out his life and is falling in love. Johnny Depp did a good job here but he was thoroughly outshined by Leo.
Had Leo not been in this film, I would probably have forgotten about the film by now. It's a film similar to many I've seen before, though that doesn't necessarily make it bad. But the character of Arnie and his relationship with Gilbert is what makes this movie interesting.