19 Aug 2013: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (DVD, 1993, Lasse Hallström)
This is a nice movie with a heart and some very good performances (Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, and Darlene Cates, an actress with a body type perhaps unparalleled in prior or subsequent Hollywood films, but who is usually allowed to be much more than a caricature), but it’s largely an artificial heart in the same fashion as of most major American cinema releases of the last thirty years, i.e. no matter how offbeat its locale, plot and characters, the overall pulse is regulated more by the algorithms of a machine than the emotions of a human being. This forces all individuality into the constraints of technical shorthands and structures that reduce drama and significance itself to a small collection of repeated sentences and replicated behaviors whose cuteness and cleverness as storytelling reduces in the beholder’s eyes every time they are employed – and I’ve beheld a lot of films, or at least sufficient films for the reduction to have reached its zero level. (This does not hold true for comedy films, which, say, in something like Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be, employ extreme repetition to humorous effect as an almost biological strategy toward hilarity. Staking philosophical or dramatic profundity on such repetitions, however, has no such effect.) Apart from the two male leads, every over person in the story feels too thin (even the mother, unfortunately and ironically) and prefabricated, even if things proceed pleasantly enough.