The whole inspiration for exposing my SOMLs and MOMLs is seeing What’s Eating Gilbert Grape on cable again last night. (And while I’m on the subject, why is it that even though I own the movie on DVD I never watch it, but when it’s on TV I can’t turn the channel?) That movie doesn’t represent a specific point in time for me as much as it represents a reoccuring theme: the ability to change.
The basic premise of the movie, for those who haven’t seen it, is that Gilbert (Johnny Depp) is forced to take responsibility almost solely for his two sisters, his mother and his mentally-retarded brother (Leonardo DiCaprio) after his dad commits suicide. Gilbert, like his father, is emotionally reserved and cannot seem to escape the ties that bind long enough to have an opinion or an emotion of his own. Forced to care for his brother (which he later accepts not as a curse, but as a desired duty), Gilbert learns to both let go of the past and embrace responsibility wisely.
The movie is great on a critical level. Depp is fantastically reserved in his portrayal of Gilbert and DiCaprio is amazing in his portrayal of Arnie Grape. But on an emotional level, it’s an escape for me. See at the end of the movie Gilbert leaves home, with Arnie, and sets off on a new adventure. He’s not tied to his family home anymore (mostly because he burned it down) and he’s free to love and learn. On top of that he comes to terms with the responsibilities that extend past adolence, in his case, Arnie, and moves forward. Granted it might be a bumpy road, but he takes the chance to get on the road in the first place.
It probably says a lot about me that I like this movie. I tend to take on more responsibility than I need to or should, especially with my friends and family. There are times when I have felt tied to things like Gilbert feels tied to his house. And though it’d be easy if some Becky-esque (Juliete Lewis) character came around to show me the error and bravery of my ways, I know that it’s something I have to teach myself. It’s a balancing act on a wire of emotions, relationships and responsibility that I have to face, but never allow myself to fully embrace.
Every time I watch the movie I discover something new. It’s like one of those “Where’s Waldo” puzzles–you can never really know the whole thing in one shot.
Maybe that’s what I like so much about it. It’s just like life. I can’t learn it all in one shot.