Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Book Reviews: 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' by Peter Hedges and 'Mary Poppins Opens the Door' + 'Mary Poppins In the Park' by P.L. Travers

What's Eating Gilbert Grape, by Peter Hedges:
My interest in What's Eating Gilbert Grape was first peaked last summer when I found out the movie with Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio was in fact based off a book (like most movies tend to be). I'd never seen the movie nor did I really know what the story was about, so I decided to check out the book. What's Eating Gilbert Grape is about 24-year-old Gilbert Grape, a grocery store clerk in the small, dead end town of Endora, Iowa. He lives with his family, which includes his older sister Amy and younger brother and sister Arnie and Ellen, as well as their mother, who has become morbidly obese in the years following her husband's suicide, having not left their house in 7 years. Arnie, who is mentally challenged (or "retarded" as they say derogatorily in the book, *sigh* it was the 90s), is about to turn 18, when his doctor said he would be lucky to live past 10 and now he could "pass any day" (I don't really get this? I think it's just something doctors used to say to families of mentally challenged children because there weren't the resources to care for them that there are today? IDK. Anyway, Arnie doesn't die. This is unimportant.) Gilbert dreams only of leaving - the only somewhat thrill he has in life is his affair with Betty Carver, a desperate housewife in town. That all changes when Becky rides into town, and things for Gilbert Grape might be turning around. In all honesty? I enjoyed the movie more than the book. I know all bookworms are supposed to pledge allegiance to the rule that "the book is always better" but sometimes a movie can say what a book cannot. In the case of What's Eating Gilbert Grape, the book is more Gilbert's narrative about his struggle - his life that's headed nowhere in Endora, and his shitty family. The movie, however, feels more of a compelling saga about the Grape family. It focuses just as much on Gilbert as the book, but if you asked me I wouldn't necessarily describe him as the main character - the movie elaborates more on the family and specifically in regards to Arnie, who is brought to life remarkably by Leonardo DiCaprio, who most certainly should have won the Oscar he was nominated for. The movie made me appreciate the story much more, because the book started to feel excessively like an oh poor me narrative about Gilbert Grape because he's stuck in a dead end town in Iowa with a fat mother and isn't getting any action with girls like cry me a river, please. Anyway. If you are interested, I recommend the movie over the book. The book was just okay. 3.5/5 stars.

2. Mary Poppins Opens the Door + Mary Poppins In the Park, by P.L. Travers:
I read the first two books in the Mary Poppins series last year, Mary Poppins and Mary Poppins Comes Back (joint review here), because the movie is my all-time favorite and I also really love the movie about Disney getting the film rights from the author, Saving Mr. Banks, so I thought I should check out the book series. I was really taken aback at first in the first two books at how grumpy, arrogant and bitter Mary Poppins is in the books, which is a common complaint among readers of the book who fell in love with the movie first, and I actually learned to appreciate the character's personality in the books more in the third and fourth installments, Mary Poppins Opens the Door and Mary Poppins In the Park. Both contain extremely imaginative adventures that Mary Poppins and the children go on, and by this point in the series, you are typically used to the characters and their ways, so I had grown to accept that Mary Poppins' grumpy and often rude personality contributes to her mysterious nature - after all, we really don't know all that much about Mary Poppins, where she comes from or who sent her in the books. So I grew to accept her as she is. Mary Poppins Opens the Door also contains chapters with imaginative and strange fairy tales that she tells the children, which were interesting to read. The title comes from Mary Poppins' answer to the children asking her if she will ever leave them again (she tends to arrive and leave with no notice, angering Mr. and Mrs. Banks), where she says that she will leave when the door opens. The ending occurs in a rather fantastical setting where she opens a door and leaves, which reminded me a little of  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Mary Poppins In the Park is said to take place during any of Mary Poppins' previous visits, as explained by the author in a disclaimer at the beginning, because it would be unrealistic for her to constantly arrive and depart, and it is just as imaginative as the other books. There is a new Mary Poppins movie coming out from Disney later this year, Mary Poppins Returns, which is said to draw from adventures in the later books in the series. I'm more interested to see if the other Banks children will be in the new movie - in the books, Jane and Michael Banks are not the only children. There's also John and Barbara, who are twins, and Annabel. So I'm intrigued to see how that will play out, but I'm sure I will enjoy it nonetheless. 4/5 stars to both.

No comments:

Post a Comment