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What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

PG-13  |   |  Drama  |  4 March 1994 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 157,964 users  
Reviews: 281 user | 72 critic

Gilbert has to care for his brother Arnie and his obese mother, which gets in the way when love walks into his life.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Laura Harrington ...
Penelope Branning ...
Susan Loughran ...
Robert B. Hedges ...
Mark Jordan ...


What's Eating Gibert Grape is a beautifully shot movie of tenderness, caring and self-awareness that is set amongst the fictional working class one street town Endora. Centred around the Grape family Ellen and Amy and their two brothers Arnie and Gilbert, who, along with their morbidly obese widowed mother Bonnie Grape are striving to survive and coexist with the absence of a father figure, low wage work and seventeen-year-old Arnie's severe mental condition. It is in this awkward and extremely one sided affair that the unfortunate Gilbert has to constantly, while working for the town's slowly dying convenience store, take care of his younger brother Arnie. Gilbert's life, his future, is thwarted he knows this, but it is in this guardian angel that his love and bond for Arnie cannot, and will not, be let go. That is until the free spirit of Becky arrives in town, and with her grandmother are stranded for the week while waiting for parts for their vehicle. This realization unties new ... Written by Cinema_Fan

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A story about the love you the last place you look. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for elements of mature subject matter | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

4 March 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Gilbert Grape  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$11,000,000 (estimated)


$9,170,214 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


As well as being her film debut, this was Darlene Cates only film role. See more »


The first time Arnie climbs the tower, Gilbert's pickup truck is parked below although he has not driven up yet. See more »


Gilbert: [climbing of the water tower] It's not going to happen again. This is the last time. Right Arnie?
Arnie: It's the last time.
Gilbert: Okay. Let's go.
Arnie: But I want to go back up there again.
See more »


Music from "Indiscretion of an American Wife"
by Alessandro Cicognini
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

26 February 2008 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Small American towns nurture kindness and big hearts, as personified by Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp), a twenty year old guy who heads a loving but difficult family of two younger sisters, a mentally retarded younger brother named Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio), and their obese momma (Darlene Cates). These are humble, unpretentious common folks who do the best they can. But life in a small town in Iowa is hard, and it can be frustrating and confining. At times, you can feel ... trapped.

The film's theme is explicit. Gilbert is trapped in a vexing family. Arnie is trapped in a body with a flawed brain. Momma is trapped in an obese body. A local woman named Betty (Mary Steenburgen) is trapped in an unsatisfying marriage. A young woman named Becky (Juliette Lewis) is trapped with her grandmother in the town by an RV that has broken down while passing through. Even a grasshopper gets trapped in Arnie's mischievous hands.

Seeing good people trapped in difficult situations is poignant. The film really tugs at your heartstrings. In one sequence, momma must face gawkers as she leaves the courthouse. Her response is inspiring and majestic. Darlene Cates does a wonderful job in this role.

Gilbert and his family live in a modest house. Its interior reminds me of the grim, depressing house in the movie "Silkwood" (1983). The dinner table must be moved each meal to wherever momma is sitting. And typical family conversation centers on preparation for Arnie's birthday party, and debate over ways to cook bacon.

A friend helps Gilbert reinforce the wood floor under Gilbert's house, so that the floor won't collapse under the weight of momma. Gilbert is kind, and has a big heart. And he is very protective of Arnie who has a habit of climbing up the town's water tower.

The townsfolk are satisfied with fulfilling small dreams, like getting a job at the new burger barn, or getting an ice cream snack at the local "Dairy Dreme". Small American towns ... life is familial and loving, but it can also be confining. And this film reminds me a lot of "The Last Picture Show" (1971).

The acting in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" is very good, as is the color cinematography, and production design. I did find the Arnie character to be a bit grating at times. The film's plot is slightly repetitive. And I don't care for the film's title. But these are minor issues.

"What's Eating Gilbert Grape" is a heartfelt story about life in a small American town, with all its kindness, big hearts, and familial love, despite the hardships. The film is worth a serious look, for its thematic depth, for its acting, and for its attention to detail in sets and production design.

34 of 38 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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