What’s Eating Gilbert Grape attained cult status immediately upon release. In the current scenario of needless sequels and indefinite number of seasons, we could idly wonder what happened next.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, a Hollywood harvest from the early 90s, attained cult status immediately upon release. It is a movie that gave us startling performances by Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio, both so young they’d barely started to shave.
A classic that courtesy Netflix is back in our lives, just in time to swim us along that post-COVID-19 sluggishness. A life-like reel replica replete with family obligations and the attendant frustrations, as also the warmth thereof. Plus the marvelously unhurried pace and patient depiction of rural scenery, with intimacy starting and ending in a kiss or hug, initiated fashionably enough by the leading lady. Female consent is woven into the story along with egalitarian motifs.
Based on a novel by Peter Hedges, the story sees Depp play a young man walking the path of dharma. He is doing the right thing by everyone – except maybe himself. He lives with an obese mother, a mentally challenged brother, two sisters and memories of a father who hanged himself in the basement. Though the movie itself remains embedded in the purity of its milieu, the two leading men are now recognisable from other roles and their rather public romantic entanglements.
In the current scenario of needless sequels and indefinite number of seasons (where Homecoming season 1 wowed us and season 2 bored us) – not to mention the abrupt infinity delivered upon us like a non-exchangeable birthday gift by the virus – we could idly wonder what happened next. Which brings us to the question: what is the Grape family doing now?
So, okay, Juliette Lewis, pretty and unbelievably skinny, brought that wondrous look to the terminally stationary Gilbert’s eye. Did she give up her wanderlust for domestic tedium? And did that make them head for the divorce courts? A former gypsy and a monosyllabic man may run into relationship ruin. As a bored housewife she may have wooed the local grocer post two kids, much like Betty Carver did with Depp; these things run in fictional small towns. Her only hope now is that he leaves her for a woman with an eating disorder – for reminding him of mommy.
Grape must be the manager of FoodLand by now, the grocery store where he used to work at having closed up after the death of its owner from the sheer shock of seeing Grape buy a cake from his rival FoodLand. Grape could have an alcohol problem or his wife would have started to cook up a storm to keep him home. Nothing eats him anymore, not when he eats everything in sight in a genetic tribute to his mom. Better that than take after his father’s fondness for nooses, shrugs Mrs Grape.
For their sake it is hoped Grape built an apartment building where his house burnt down. And that the new Mrs Grape tied her trailer to a tree in the backyard, where the Grapes honeymoon now and then. Leo, we imagine, would continue to climb the town water tower, just to escape having to babysit brother Depp’s brats.Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.