Tag Archives: Laura Harring

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993, Lasse Hallström)

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape does something very unscrupulous… it relies on the viewer’s affection for its characters to get away with being a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

In terms of narrative honesty, I mean.

Gilbert Grape is, for the majority of its run time, a lyrical character study. Yes, it takes place in a summer and not an average one, but director Hallström goes out of his way to show the extraordinary events in the film as standard in the characters’ lives. Sven Nykvist’s photography, Alan Parker and Björn Isfält’s beautiful score, it all combines to create that lyrical mood.

Then something little happens, thanks to the introduction of Juliette Lewis’s stranded tourist into the lives of locals Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio’s lives.

Then something big happens and it turns out that deus ex machina finish isn’t even necessary, not even a part of it, for Gilbert Grape to work. One has to assume writer Peter Hedges, adapting his own novel, wasn’t willing to streamline for the sake of narrative honesty.

Depp’s strong in the lead, Lewis is good as his love interest. DiCaprio, as Depp’s mentally handicapped brother, is outstanding. But Laura Harrington and Mary Kate Schellhardt are great (though underutilized) as Depp and DiCaprio’s sisters. Darlene Cates is affecting, if a little rocky.

Excellent supporting work from Crispin Glover, Kevin Tighe and Mary Steenburgen.

Regardless of the narrative subterfuge, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is an excellent film. It’s often a wondrous, transcendent experience with some exquisite acting.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Lasse Hallström; screenplay by Peter Hedges, based on his novel; director of photography, Sven Nykvist; edited by Andrew Mondshein; music by Alan Parker and Björn Isfält; production designer, Bernt Amadeus Capra; produced by David Matalon, Bertil Ohlsson and Meir Teper; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Johnny Depp (Gilbert Grape), Leonardo DiCaprio (Arnie Grape), Juliette Lewis (Becky), Mary Steenburgen (Betty Carver), Darlene Cates (Bonnie Grape), Laura Harrington (Amy Grape), Mary Kate Schellhardt (Ellen Grape), Kevin Tighe (Ken Carver), John C. Reilly (Tucker Van Dyke), Crispin Glover (Bobby McBurney) and Penelope Branning (Becky’s Grandma).


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The Punisher (2004, Jonathan Hensleigh)

Considering Dolph Lundgren got famous playing a blond Russian and can definitely act better than Kevin Nash, who doesn’t even have any lines and is terrible, it’s telling Jonathan Hensleigh didn’t bring him back for a small role, an acknowledgment of the far superior 1989 Punisher adaptation.

Whereas that film–and to some extent, the one following this effort–tried to be a senselessly violent action revenge movie, Hensleigh’s Punisher tries to rationalize the comic book character, who’s never been conducive to such analysis. The closest is Garth Ennis’s recently concluded terminating work on the character, which acknowledges the unreality and tragedy of being an unstoppable killing machine.

Hensleigh tries to turn Thomas Jane’s Punisher into a sympathetic hero. He fails miserably and, as a result, gives Jane the worst written role in a movie filled with poorly written roles. When John Travolta, all in all, turns in a better performance than Will Patton, it might very be the end of the world as we know it.

Laura Harring is atrocious. Who else… oh, poor Roy Scheider. Why was he in this one?

The best performance is from Rebecca Romijn. Really. She’s actually totally believable as a regular person with real problems. Ben Foster and John Pinette are both good too, as Romijn’s sidekicks.

Hensleigh is a boring director, but not terrible. His wife, Gale Anne Hurd, probably got him the job. She should have brought in a real screenwriter.

Carlo Siliotto’s music, though inappropriate (it’s heroic), is all right.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh; screenplay by Hensleigh and Michael France, based on the Marvel Comics character created by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru; director of photography, Conrad W. Hall; edited by Jeff Gullo and Steven Kemper; music by Carlo Siliotto; production designer, Michael Z. Hanan; produced by Avi Arad and Gale Anne Hurd; released by Lions Gate Films.

Starring Thomas Jane (Frank Castle), John Travolta (Howard Saint), Will Patton (Quentin Glass), Roy Scheider (Frank Castle Sr.), Laura Harring (Livia Saint), Ben Foster (Dave), Jon Pinette (Mr. Bumpo), Rebecca Romijn (Joan), Samantha Mathis (Maria Castle) and Marcus Johns (Will Castle).


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Maximum Overdrive (1986, Stephen King)

Maximum Overdrive confuses me a little. I thought–given the movie opens with the writer and director being insulted by a cash machine–Stephen King wasn’t going for anything… well, artistic is a stretch, so maybe genuine. Almost immediately following is a scene where a bunch of watermelons crash into car windshields to humorous effect. It certainly seems like King is well aware Overdrive has the potential to amuse and divert and nothing else….

I mean, he couldn’t have thought the acting was good, right? Emilio Estevez gives what could–I’m not a Estevez aficionado, I’m just guessing–be the worst performance of his career, if not the Estevez clan as a whole (though I think that pronouncement is something of a stretch). He affects a terrible Southern accent and appears to have the same backstory as his character in his own auteur debut, Wisdom, which begs the additional question–is King mocking his leading man?

The movie plays like some guy off the street got a million dollars to make a movie (except King got ten million from Dino De Laurentiis, in one of cinema history’s sounder financial investments). King’s got some neat ideas in the picture–though I think cool might be the better term… cool ideas–and some of them are competently pulled off. I really wish the unrated, ultra-violent version were available, just for the visuals. Maximum Overdrive is not scary, not once, not in the slightest. It’s a goofy sci-fi movie with aliens–it’s like Transformers without the transforming. But King clearly does enjoy himself during some of the movie.

Except it isn’t during the terrible scenes with Estevez or romantic interest Laura Harrington. Harrington is an unmitigated disaster–Overdrive rightly ended her career, at least for theatrical releases. Some of it–the lousy dialogue, could be construed as King’s fault… but she plays it all so straight, it’s like she doesn’t realize she’s delivering bad dialogue. Estevez doesn’t seem to be in on the joke either.

At least Pat Hingle relishes in his role, even if it’s to limited success. Yeardley Smith’s terrible too. Actually, the only good performance is probably John Short.

Anyway, King’s intent here gets confused at the end. Fifteen year-old Holter Graham (he’s real bad too, I forgot about him) is running around with an assault rifle, to the point it’s funny–not only does King run a kid over with a steamroller earlier, he gives another one an assault rifle to play with–only to have what seems to be an attempt at an honest scene. Graham’s father dies early on and after avenging him, Graham doesn’t want to touch the rifle again. It’s earnestly handled, which is a big mistake. If King had mocked the scene… at least it would have been fun.

King’s direction is singularly unimpressive. I don’t think he has one “good” shot in the entire movie and only a handful are bad enough to elicit laughter. His handling of the South is funny; he ridicules it in a way you wouldn’t expect a major motion picture to do… I guess he wasn’t worried about box office returns. The much-hyped (I guess it was back then, wasn’t it?) music from AC/DC is occasionally effective, even if they are just ripping off John Carpenter’s style.

In the interest of transparency, I need to mention it took me forever to get through the movie. If I’d gone to see it in a theater, I probably would have walked. There are long stretches when nothing dumb and funny happens and it’s just Estevez and Harrington–not even any gore. The gore’s actually not very gory and I can’t imagine why King had to cut any of it (thirteen seconds were infamously cut to make the R rating).

Wait… there was one decent sequence. Graham’s biking through a residential neighborhood where everyone’s been killed by some appliance or another (I won’t get started on how the possessed trucks and appliances don’t make any sense). It’s uncanny and effective.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Stephen King; written by King, based on his story; director of photography, Armando Nannuzzi; edited by Evan A. Lottman; music by AC/DC; production designer, Giorgio Postiglione; produced by Martha De Laurentiis; released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.

Starring Emilio Estevez (Bill Robinson), Pat Hingle (Hendershot), Laura Harrington (Brett), Yeardley Smith (Connie), John Short (Curtis), Ellen McElduff (Wanda June), J.C. Quinn (Duncan), Christopher Murney (Camp Loman), Holter Graham (Deke) and Frankie Faison (Handy).


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