What’s Eating Gilbert Grape: The Reality of Happiness In 1993 the film “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” was released by Paramount Pictures. The movie was directed by Lasse Hallstrom, and starred actors such as Leonardo Dicaprio, Johnny Depp, Juliette Lewis, John C. Reilly, and many more. This was an award winning film that showed life from a troubled family point of view. The oldest brother Gilbert Grape was living his teenage years taking care of his mentally challenged brother and physically challenged mother. The family had a rough life but still were on the Pursuit of Happiness, and while on this path
Gilbert connects better with his family and meets a girl that as he sees it, could potentially change his life forever. Through this all, Gilbert seems to start seeing the bigger picture in life. Happiness is truly a mesmerizing topic, and it confuses many of people. This film shows many of things about happiness and the variety of aspects to it. Some of the main things it shows are how people can face adversity and still be happy, it shows that certain things make individuals have different levels of happiness, and it also shows that it is difficult for an individual to truly understand happiness.
In the view of the Grape family, they have it very rough at the start of the film, especially the main character Gilbert. Gilbert faces a handful of adversity in his everyday life such as things like taking care of Arnie his mentally challenged brother while also working a full time job providing for his family. I believe him having to do this lead him to being part of an affair with an old married lady. In Gilbert’s conscience he realizes that what he is doing is wrong, but at the same time “sex, no surprise, makes everyone feel better, [at that certain time]” (Schoch,451).
Essentially what this means is that Gilbert oes not know how to deal with situation. He knows it is wrong, but at the same time he is enjoying what he is doing so it gives him that short span of happiness. Gilbert being the main character, faces the most adversity. Another thing he has to deal with everyday is the fact that his mother is obese and can no longer take care of herself. The film shows that Gilbert struggles with this because in one scene a character named Tucker, asks how the mother is doing and gets the response, “she’s fat” (Gilbert). This just tells you that his mom not being able to care for herself really frustrates him.
It makes Gilbert think that e literally has to do everything for that family. One of the biggest things that makes this whole family face adversity is the death of the father. Losing an immediate family member is arguably the most difficult thing ever to cope with. Arnie, being mentally challenged does not realize how bad of a thing this is and frustrates the entire family in one scene by chanting “dad’s dead”. Facing adversity is a very difficult thing, but if you get through the hardships happiness usually is not far behind. Given that this family has a troubled life, certain things can still make each one of them have happiness.
Everyone has those certain things that boost up their levels of happiness. Many people have reported that “living within walking distance of an enjoyable and secure job, propping up at the bar with friends, and then being able to go home and have sex” (Schoch, 451) are some of those certain things that make someone happy. Looking back at the film Gilbert basically did two of those things everyday. He enjoyed his job, and was part of the affair and those two things definitely boosted his level of happiness. Those things sort of let him escape from his miserable family for short amounts of time.
That is what individuals need, those few things that let them escape from what is their norm. Similarly, there are things that can lower someone’s level of happiness just as easy. One thing that lowers Gilbert’s level of happiness is the fact that he has to take care of Arnie twenty-four seven. It is a never ending task, Arnie is loving, caring, and has many more wonderful traits, but it would be hard for any teenager to take care of a mentally challenged person. Basically what this means is that everyone is unique and has their own thought on happiness. I think what Gilbert truly strived for was “I want to be good person” (Gilbert).
If people saw Gilbert as a good person, then that would have highly increased his levels of happiness. Looking back on the film and even in my everyday life, I see that it is truly hard to understand happiness. Happiness is one of the most difficult things to wrap a mind around, and that is why it is difficult to understand. In the start of the movie Gilbert was fed up with his responsibilities, his family, and basically everything else. Then one day, boom a girl shows up in a beat up camper that Gilbert falls head over heels for. Suddenly his mindset on life changes.
He starts to realize that family and friends are what means most. Gilbert struggles in the start in the film because “We do not always confront happiness head on” (Kingwell, 413). Although soon after Beckie shows up he confronts her head on, because she is what truly makes him happy. He didn’t understand his life, his family, or his adversaries. Until Beckie lead him to realize that what he had was special. Gilbert did not understand that what he had should make him a very happy person. From that moment on, Gilbert was happy. He was happy with Arnie, his mother, his job, and most importantly Beckie.
What all of this personally tells me is that happiness is a very diverse thing for everyone. No one is going to understand their life fully, but one thing is for sure: true love really helps. In conclusion, the film “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” shows that someone may never know what a family might be facing. Although, even at the worst, a family can still find happiness, and I know this because of the divorce of my parents. Happiness is always somewhere, you just have to search for it because you will eventually find it. Whether it is within family, love, or just the ratefulness of life, happiness is always right there to be found.
This film shows how people can face adversity and still be happy, it shows that certain things make individuals have different levels of happiness, and it also shows that it is difficult for an individual to truly understand happiness. Essentially what it all comes down too, is that happiness is always going to be a grueling subject. “To desire happiness, to get ahold of it, is one that is common in our culture” (Kingwell, 413). Nevertheless, if the find your life meaning and start to see the bigger picture, verything you have went through in life sort of starts to make sense.
I personally loved this film because I felt as if I connected with it on a higher level than most viewers. Family means everything to me as an individual and it was amazing to see Gilbert finally connect with his family on such a high level. Personally my favorite aspect of the film was the fact that Arnie was a mentally challenged individual, but he still understood life, and he still chased the feeling of happiness. Overall, this film is a life lesson. It shows you that you will have ups and downs in life, but you always have to stay on the pursuit of happiness.