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DVD Review HTF Review: What's Eating Gilbert Grape -Special Collector's Edition

Discussion in 'DVD' started by PatWahlquist, Jun 18, 2006.

  1. PatWahlquist

    PatWahlquist Supporting Actor

    Jun 13, 2002
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    What’s Eating Gilbert Grape - Special Collector’s Edition

    Studio: Paramount Home Video
    Rated: PG13 (Mature Subject Matter)
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays
    Audio: English DD 5.1; English DD 2.0
    Subtitles: English
    Time: 128 minutes
    Disc Format: 1 DVD-9
    Case Style: Keep case
    Theatrical Release Date:1993
    DVD Release Date: June 20, 2006

    Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) is trapped: due to several afflictions to his family, he has become the one who holds them and their lives together. His brother, Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio), is mentally handicapped and each year he remains alive is a miracle; his mother, referred to only as Mama (Darlene Cates), weighs in at guilt ridden 500 pounds and doesn’t hardly move or leave the house. Gilbert’s two sisters, Amy (Laura Harrington) and Ellen (Mary Kate Schellhardt), contribute to Gilbert’s angst, but hardly help him. His home life is amplified in the fact that the town they live in, Endora, is about as small and depressed as they come with signage that reads “ENDora of the Road” on one local storefront. Gilbert finds some stimulation from a bored house wife with whom he is having a secret affair, Betty (Mary Steenburgen). When a motor home carrying a new, young face in the form of Becky (Juliette Lewis) arrives in town, Gilbert finally sees the potential to life outside of his family and Endora.

    Gilbert is responsible for his brother and Arnie proves to be a handful by climbing water towers on a regular basis and refusing to keep up his personal hygiene. Gilbert is Arnie’s father and mother in one, since Mama’s excessive weight has stopped her from contributing much to any of their lives. In a miasma of guilt, anger and frustration, the family enables Mama’s condition by continually making big, fried meals and moving the table to Mama’s couch. At the same time, these family meals erupt into venomous shouting matches that further emphasize the internal struggles of each of the characters. Gilbert longs for an escape from the burdens of his family and the spirit zapping nothingness of Endora. Becky, in the mere fact that her home is mobile, gives Gilbert hope in a future away from his responsibilities, while at the same time realizing how invaluable he is to his family and their continued survival. By the time Gilbert comes to terms with his life, he finds that which may be eating him could be feeding him as well.

    Anchored by strong performances by each of the cast members, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape has gained a loyal following in the past thirteen years since its release, and rightfully so. It has a sweet, almost heartbreaking story that we all can relate to as we sacrifice parts of our lives for those we love. DiCaprio, in his first major performance is completely convincing as the child-like Arnie (the scene with him and Mama towards the end of the picture is amazing) and it gives us a taste of things to come from this young actor. Depp also conveys the bleakness of his surroundings in his dour gazes and moments of rage and anger. When it comes to book to movie adaptations, I am always pleased to see the involvement of the original author in the screenplay. Author and screenwriter Peter Hedges does an excellent job of converting his story from one medium to another while retaining and adding to elements of the story.

    The picture is correctly framed at 1.85:1 and it is an anamorphic transfer. It exhibits a bland color scheme to further emphasize the atmosphere of the setting and the mindset of the characters. Flesh tones are fairly accurate, but they as well as the picture in general seem to stray towards red. The picture shows some good detail in some of the scenes, but overall it is a soft picture. Black levels are deep and have a tendency to crush in on the shadows, making delineation in the darker scenes difficult to see. There is some edge enhancement noticeable, but it is not distracting. The transfer itself is free from any dirt. This appears to be the same transfer of the original DVD release from 2001.

    The disc has a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a 2.0 surround track, the former of which is basically not utilized. This is a picture which relies on dialogue first and foremost, so the audio is primarily planted in the center speaker. There were minor amounts of stereo or surround activity, and it usually perked up during the music cues. LFE was minimal as well. The voices and soundtrack, however, were very clean and crisp and they sounded natural. Again, this appears to be the same audio tracks as the previous release.

    Bonus Material:
    Paramount has improved on the previous release in this area by giving us three mini documentaries and a director’s commentary. The previous release only had the trailer.

    Feature Length Commentary by Director Lasse Hallstrom and writer Peter Hedges: Hedges tends to run the commentary and Hallstrom simply adds several “Uh, huh’s” and “Yeah’s”. When the occasion presents itself, Hallstrom comments on some of the technical aspects of his direction. Hedges gives a good commentary and tells us how the story made the transition from novel to screen play.

    The Characters of Gilbert Grape, The Voice of Gilbert Grape, and Why We Love Gilbert Grape (10:47, 5:30 and 7:49, respectively) These three documentaries contain new interviews with the writer and director, Depp, Lewis, Steenburgen and Darlene Cates. Depp was obviously interviewed on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean as he has on his Jack Sparrow hair, make-up and beard. There is also an interview with DiCaprio from the original shoot. These interviews have the participants explaining the origins of the project, what shooting was like, and their interpretation of the story and characters. Depp is very enthusiastic about the work and he goes into some depth (he would have been enjoyable on the commentary). The final doc explains the impact of the picture and tries to define its impact on viewers.

    Trailer: Original theatrical trailer in anamorphic widescreen. It is an old print, and there is a quite a bit of dirt on it.

    Photo Gallery

    While not an improvement on the audio or video (and not that it necessarily needs it), this new edition gives us a few extras that were absent on the previous release. I don’t know if that alone is worth a double dip, but for those who haven’t seen the picture, this new edition is worth picking up for its story and outstanding performances.
  2. Magnus T

    Magnus T Supporting Actor

    Jan 26, 2003
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    I think I'll stick with my original copy, which I bought for, like, 5 bucks. It's too late in the DVD market for special features this slim.
  3. Joe Caps

    Joe Caps Cinematographer

    Dec 10, 2000
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    This is NOT Di Caprios first major role as hea had already done This Boys Life.

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