My Movieful Weekend: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

I spent this weekend in the beautiful city of Halifax watching movies. Yes, those readers from fair Halifax may judge me for that as it was a mostly sunny, hot weekend where outdoor and beach activities would be high on most people’s agendas. But that’s when I love most the air-conditioned comfort of a good movie. Besides, as you read on you’ll realize Halifax offers a fantastic opportunity to combine these simple pleasures – movies outdoors. The range of movies included in my movieful weekend is quite diverse covers a span of 50 years of film-making. I couldn’t fit everything in nice and neatly in one post, so I’m going to post this in three parts over the next few days. You’ll just have to stay tuned…

Friday: I learned what was eating Gilbert Grape…

On Friday evening I packed up my car with a folding chair, a blanket, and some extra layers, collected my friend H and we headed to the Halifax waterfront for alFresco filmFesto. It is, quite literally, my absolute most favourite thing to do in the city during the hot summer months. No matter how hot and/or humid it gets during the day, I ALWAYS need to curl up under a blanket to watch alFresco films on the boardwalk with the cool breeze off the Atlantic ocean. It’s cozy and fun to watch old, nostalgic movies with the beautiful backdrop of Halifax harbour and George’s Island immediately to your left.

alFresco filmFesto, Halifax

BYOB (blanket, not beer) and a folding chair

View of the harbour and George’s Island

We paid our suggested donation (proceeds go to support the Atlantic Film Festival held here in September) and staked out our territory close to the inflatable screen. While there weren’t any coming attractions before the film started, there was a marriage proposal projected on the big screen to get things rolling. Fortunately the intended said “yes”, ’cause that could’ve been awkward.

As the credits rolled, I was reminded that “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (1993) was directed by Lasse Halström, known of course for sweet, poignant films like “The Cider House Rules” and “Chocolat”. Gilbert Grape falls in this category as well. So, so sad – painfully so at times – it captures a small-town family’s struggle to take care of each other and how there’s both a deep love and an acute desperation that binds them. Gilbert (played by a young Depp hot off “Edward Scissorhands” and “Benny & Joon”) is the oldest of four children holding things together for his siblings and obese, shut-in mother.

Long before he became Jack Dawson and swept millions of girls off their feet, Leonardo DiCaprio earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the intellectually challenged younger brother, Arnie. (If you’ve always thought DiCaprio was just another pretty face, see this movie – guaranteed to shift your perspective of his body of work.) Along comes a seasonal caravan of travellers that includes the endearing, free-spirited Becky (Juliette Lewis) who shakes up Gilbert’s world and encourages him to voice his own hopes and dreams and wishes. In some ways the ending (which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t seen it) suggests it was Mama who held them all back, but in other ways, on this my second viewing of the film after many many years, it seems more about how we hold ourselves back when others’ needs seem so much greater than our own.

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” (Leo – Tolstoy, not DiCaprio) (Source)

In some ways, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” was a little bit heavy for a breezy summer’s evening watching a movie by the water, but overall I had a great time revisiting this one thanks to alFresco’s Summer of Johnny series.

Come back for Part II of my weekend of movie adventures where I consider “Beasts of the Southern Wild”…


6 thoughts on “My Movieful Weekend: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

    • Good to know – I like action! But I heard it’s a little light on plot – or that the plot points seem to exist primarily to set up the next movie. I do enjoy Jeremy Renner though, so I think it’s a given I will see this at some point. And it’s always best to see some action-packed Bourne on the big screen…

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