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  What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)
Juliette Lewis, Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio; Photo courtesy of Paramount/The Kobal Collection

You think your family is hard to live with? Just spend a couple of hours with Gilbert Grape's kinfolk.

Actually, the Grape family isn't strictly dysfunctional. Sure, they have a lot of problems, but what family doesn't? But they've managed to develop a workable routine to care for their obese and reclusive mom and special needs brother.

Johnny Depp, a three-time best actor nominee (as Sweeney Todd in "Sweeney Todd" in 2007; J.M. Barrie in "Finding Neverland" in 2005; and as Capt. Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean" in 2004), is particularly poignant as Gilbert. He struggles daily with the dead ends, both financial and personal, of small-town life. Also eating at Gilbert are his conflicting desires to escape Endora, Iowa, or stay and continue to be big brother/surrogate dad to his developmentally challenged brother Arnie, a role that earned Leonardo DiCaprio a supporting actor nomination. (DiCaprio picked up his first best-actor Oscar nod this year for his portrayal of "The Aviator" Howard Hughes.)

Gilbert's caretaker responsibility is further complicated by the dim financial prospects at his grocery store job. A new supermarket is slowly killing the small corner store. To top it off, Gilbert discovers that the aging family house is literally falling down around him and his siblings.


Throughout it all, the Grapes manage to cope with an amazing amount of good humor in the face of their challenges. But because the family is endearingly offbeat, you want more for them. Watching "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?," you wish you could make its characters see the film's money message: Set your family down, discuss your financial needs and develop a plan to meet them before they reach the crisis stage.

A little fiscal forethought, especially when it came to Arnie's special needs, certainly could have made life a lot easier for the whole bunch of Grapes.

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