Movie Commentary: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

1224 words - 5 pages

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a film focused on Gilbert Grape, a young adult who lives in the small town of Endora, Iowa. Gilbert, a son and a brother, lives in a family of five in a small run-down house built by his father. His mother, Bonnie, has grown morbidly obese after the suicide of her husband 7 years ago and she has not stepped out of the house since. Since his mother lacks the ability to physically move around, Gilbert is left with the responsibility of taking care of his younger brother Arnie, who is mentally retarded, and his two sisters Amy and Ellen. While Gilbert works at a small grocery store to support his dysfunctional family, he leads an empty life. He holds a love affair with Betty Carver, a woman twice his age whom he no longer seems interested in.
With the weight on his shoulders to take care of his family, Gilbert meets Becky, a young woman who gets stuck with her grandmother in Endora. As Becky and Gilbert spend more time together, the more he realizes that he leads an empty life and that there is much more to life that he wants to explore outside of his small town. As the day finally comes to celebrate Arnie’s 18th birthday, a day much emphasized, the mother Bonnie dies. With her weight being a problem, she needs a crane to lift her out of the house. To save their family from shame and embarrassment, Gilbert burns down the house. Gilbert is able to start a new life by moving out of Endora with Arnie and Becky.
Through the problem of supporting a dysfunctional family, Gilbert Grape struggles with finding his personal identity. The scene at the start of the film pans through all of his family members. While the camera focuses on each individual in the family, Gilbert narrates in a monotone voice and it is clear that he is missing a father. His monotone voice depicts that he finds emptiness in his family, and because of his family, he lacks personal freedom. Gilbert is forced to work at a local grocery store because he has to provide income for his family. Due to his mother’s inability to move and his father’s death, great pressure is put on him to provide for a family of five. Throughout the film, many factors often portray how he has a great deal of pressure. Although Gilbert has the ability to abandon responsibility, the societal factor of being the oldest male chains him to be responsible for the family. He does not realize that he is masking his inner self. Gilbert, like many males is “living behind a mask of masculine bravado that hides the genuine self to conform to our society’s expectations; the feel it is necessary to cut themselves off from any feelings that society teaches them are unacceptable for men and boys—fear, uncertainty, feelings of loneliness and need (Pollack, 1999).” As explained by Pollack, societal pressure force Gilbert to think that he has to handle the situation alone and is afraid of asking for help which eventually causes him to become depressed. Throughout the majority of the film, he...

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