What's Eating Gilbert Grape
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This is the movie that Leonardo DiCaprio received an Oscar nomination for, five years before "Titanic". And, in fact, this is the movie that should have made him a star, he's so good in it. Based on the novel by Peter Hedges (who adapted his own book) and directed by Lasse Hallstr??m ("My Life as a Dog"), this is the funny, moody tale of a young man named Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) who lives at home in a small town with his 500-pound Momma (beautifully played by nonpro Darlene Cates), his mentally retarded younger brother Arnie (DiCaprio, utterly convincing), and his sisters. Not a lot happens--Arnie keeps climbing a water tower and getting stuck; Gilbert is involved with a married woman (Mary Steenburgen), then meets a nice new girl in town who's closer to his age (Juliette Lewis). And that's exactly what makes this movie so much more than your run-of-the-mill Hollywood product: it's not about some mechanical, formulaic plot; it's about these characters, and it allows you to spend some time with them and get to know them. Depp may have started out as a TV teen idol on "21 Jump Street", but his feature film choices since then--in such wonderfully offbeat and diverse movies as "Cry-Baby", "Edward Scissorhands", "Benny & Joon", "Donnie Brasco"--have made him one of the most interesting, unpredictable, and risk-taking young actors in American movies. "--Jim Emerson"