*½/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras B-
starring Johnny Depp, Juliette Lewis, Mary Steenburgen, Leonardo DiCaprio
screenplay by Peter Hedges, based on his novel
directed by Lasse Hallström
by Travis Mackenzie Hoover There's a cult following for What's Eating Gilbert Grape, but it's peopled by folks without the stomach for a genuine cult outrage. Trafficking in low-level "unconventionality," it's fatally done in by Hollywood bet-hedging and the searing banality of director Lasse Hallström--a man who could turn William S. Burroughs into Norman Rockwell apple pie. Despite the potentially traumatic nature of the material (parental suicide, morbid obesity, self-abnegation), the film plays like every other mainstream weepie, with its straight edge only slightly dulled by trace elements of eccentricity. It's one of those movies that works exactly as planned but bulldozes the implications that might make it less--or rather more--than stimulus/response emotional pornography.