At a very young age, I fell in love with Johnny Depp's characters, many of whom were misunderstood outcasts like Edward Scissorhands, Captain Jack Sparrow and Cry Baby. Yet, out of all of his movies, What's Eating Gilbert Grape is without a doubt my favorite film starring #JohnnyDepp.
It's a movie about a young man named Gilbert who's disenchanted with the responsibilities he and his siblings face as a result of their father's suicide. Through Gilbert, Depp gives a performance that hits close to home for me because I've had to sacrifice a lot to try and keep my family afloat ever since I was little. Johnny Depp takes the ordinary character of Gilbert Grape and gives a memorable performance that will resonate with audiences for years to come.
Here are five reasons why What's Eating Gilbert Grape is Johnny Depp's best role:
5. Johnny Depp's Sincerity Is Palpable
Gilbert Grape is one of four siblings who's stuck at a minimum wage job trying to make ends meet, while at the same time taking care of his younger brother Arnie who has a severe mental condition. There's no happily ever after in sight so he coasts through life disenchanted and unable to break away from his family. Depp truly brings out the sadness and contained frustration in this character with so much sincerity that it breaks my heart every time I watch his character transform on screen.
Gilbert goes through growing pains and has to accept the fact that this is his life and he can't escape it. With his sincere smile, Johnny Depp will take you through the life of Gilbert and make you cry by the end of the movie.
4. Conformity Is The Death Of Dreams
Here we see Depp display a restrained anger that leads Gilbert to lash out. His little outburst makes his sister snap back at him claiming he's trying to play dad. It's hard to watch because they start off with talk of Arnie's birthday party and end up having their dinner ruined. Bonnie's inability to speak about her deceased husband has indirectly damaged her children because there's no closure, only passivity of the fact that he died.
In a similar fashion, Gilbert watches everyone towards the end of the scene and almost doesn't want to stop Arnie from screaming that their dad is dead. Johnny Depp is quite amazing here because Gilbert seems like an outsider looking in at the chaos, unable to believe the fact that he's part of it, but he's actually more involved than he wants to acknowledge.
3. Because He's Gilbert
As much as he hates his life, Gilbert always takes care of his brother because he's the only one who doesn't realize the crappy conditions they live in and finds joy in the simplest of things. In the scene shown above, Gilbert reminds Arnie that should anyone insult or hit him, he should tell him about it right away. This is a small scene that comes full circle when it's Gilbert who gets upset and hits Arnie several times.
Although the relationship between Arnie and Gilbert is sweet, it's definitely a burden for Gilbert. He's his protector, father, brother, and friend. It's hard to do all of that without getting fed up about all the intricacies that come with taking care of Arnie.
2. Don't Be Embarrassed Of Your Family
As you watch the film, it's obvious that Gilbert doesn't think much of his family at first. He has to deal with Arnie's crazy antics, Ellen's pubescent tirades, and his overweight mother Bonnie who hasn't left the house in several decades. When he meets Becky, played by Juliette Lewis, Gilbert is immediately attracted to her because of her way of thinking. He loves the fact she sees life as unpredictable and lives every day like it's her last. She treats every person with kindness and honesty.
Gilbert is amazed at how easily she expresses her emotions in the moment without holding back, something he can't do. After hitting Arnie, Gilbert confides in Becky and she helps him overcome his guilt and convinces him to go back home where he finally introduces his mother to her. It's a very beautiful moment because he's finally unafraid to let people in and see where he comes from. He learns to accept that you don't get to choose your family, but you can choose how to react and deal with them.
1. I Haven't Always Been Like This
Johnny Depp as Gilbert Grape is a wonderful treat to watch. He gives an apathetic, yet warm performance about a young man trying to make sense of his life when nothing's ever really ever made sense in the first place. There's a great line in the film that Gilbert's mother Bonnie says towards the end, "I haven't always been like this."
It's true that she wasn't always a woman who let the years go by without realizing how much her grief and conformist attitude affected her family. Just the same, Gilbert wasn't always silently angry at life for being born in a boring town and into his dysfunctional family. It's hard to accept that, at some point, we've let ourselves become so far removed from the reality that we're living that we forget how to move past our inner turmoil and actually thank the heavens we're able to live another day.
What's your favorite Johnny Depp film? Let me know in the comments below.