Casabloga: What’s Eating GIlbert Grape?

When I heard that Teen Wolf got a TV series, I was more than a little annoyed. Not so much because they turned that classic movie into a TV series (I have friends who watch it and from what I hear it’s actually quite good). It was because for every classic movie where a TV series wasn’t really needed but is made anyway, there is a classic movie that deserves a TV series that no one even considers making. In this case, that classic movie is the 1993 drama called What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

Set in fictional Endora, Iowa, the film is about Gilbert Grape (surprise!), played by Johnny Depp, as you’ve never seen him before:


Gilbert Grape



He takes his mentally challenged brother, Arney (Leonardo DiCaprio) with him wherever he goes, making sure nothing bad happens to him. But he can’t have his eye on him all the time, and shortly after the film starts, Arney runs off and climbs the town water tower, bringing the attention of the residence and the police. When they finally get him down, we’re told that this has happened before, and more than once.

I hadn’t seen this movie in years when I sat down to watch it for this review, and I seriously forgot that it was just one movie. Over the course of 119 minutes, so much happens that it kind of feels like a TV series. This is a real town and these are real people. The film has no central plot (as in, there is no real goal of the story). It’s just a bunch of stuff happening. It’s like it’s just a random week in Endora that we happen to get a glimpse of. And in that one week, whole story just happens to happen.

The characters each have their own story and relationships established. They already know each other, so we’re not told everything, but implied just enough to get a rich backstory.

While watching, I actually thought of three separate TV series based off this one movie. The first would be just a straight adaptation of the movie into one season of a show. The second series (which could even be the continuation of the first) would be the story of where the four people at the end (no spoilers in this post) go. Each episode they could go to another place. Becky said in the movie that her grandmother can’t stay still in one place for long, so the series would be them traveling around to different places. The third series would be called Endora and would be just a Twin Peaks/Northern Exposure-like series about the residence of Endora. The small glimpse we got of the town over the course of the movie makes me interested to know what goes on all the time.

With TV series popping up left and right based on existing material (Teen Wolf, The Walking Dead, Bates Motel, Beauty and the Beast, Sleepy Hollow, Under the Dome, The Carrie Diaries, etc) I can honestly see (and want to see) this show made. Even if it’s just one of the three I listed, or if they combine them into one, there  is so much that can be done with this movie.

I haven’t even mentioned the music, which perfectly fits the mood of the movie. There is also an all-star cast, which includes Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Lewis, Mary Steenburgen, John C. Reilly, among others, all of which do an amazing job. There isn’t a single bad actor in this film. To me the “star” of this movie is Leonardo DiCaprio, playing mentally challenged Arney Grape. He does the role so convincingly that I actually tried telling myself throughout the movie, “This is Leo! He played Howard Hughes, Jack Dawson, and Gatsby!”, but I just couldn’t see it. That wasn’t Leonardo DiCaprio on screen, it was Arney Grape. This is in a pre-Titanic role, before he became a superstar, displaying the talent we’ve all come to expect from him now. This film proves that he’s been talented from the beginning.


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