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What's Eating Gilbert Grape
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What's Eating Gilbert Grape More at IMDbPro »

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42 out of 46 people found the following review useful:


Author: Lechuguilla from Dallas, Texas
26 February 2008

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.

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46 out of 78 people found the following review useful:

A simple movie with a simple plot.

Author: Aaron1375
27 January 2004

Depp plays the title character and this movie just seems to go through a typical few days in this family's life. However, the main character is getting tired of it, and you can tell he is about to snap. There isn't a very well defined plot, but it seems to revolve around Arnie's birthday party and the coming of motor homes that drive through the area. This movie though doesn't revolve around plot, but rather characters. It is more of a character study I would say. The performances are rather good so it works for me. First time I saw this, before I knew who Leonardo was I actually thought he was a mentally ill person playing the part. This movie has some laughs too as it isn't all serious. It is worth a look.

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Everyone should be a bit more like Gilbert Grape...

Author: Travis_Bickle01
26 March 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"What's eating Gilbert Grape" is the unique story of a young man who just wants to be a good person. Johnny Depp gives a wonderful performance and Leonardo Dicaprio is amazing, unbelievable, outstanding,... as the retarded Arnie. It's hard to describe his performance, you just have to see it. I think it's one of the best performances of a retarded kid ever. He definitely should have won the Oscar, instead of Tommy Lee Jones. Also Juliette Lewis gives a truly remarkable performance as the vulnerable Becky.

There are also many heartbreaking moments in this movie, but I will only mention the ones who where the most special to be. The scene where the mother goes to the police office herself to get her son, was really moving. When she returns to the car and all the people are staring at here, children are laughing, there's even a guy who's taking a picture... when I saw this I could only feel very sorry for her. Another great scene is when they put the house on fire when their mother died. The meaning of that is very beautiful and sad at the same time: it's the only way her funeral can be a bit respectful and she won't be seen as a joke (it's literally what she said she wanted) I'm a big fan of Lasse Hallström. Every time he makes a movie, he succeeds in delivering a wonderful a touching piece of art with actors who give the best of them. This movie isn't an exception, it is as beautiful as "The Cider House Rules", "Chocolat" and "The Shipping News".

Wonderful story, great acting,...what more should a movie have? Excellent movie, a must see for everyone who isn't afraid of feeling something... 9/10

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A change of pace for almost everyone involved results in spectacular success.

Author: Michael DeZubiria ( from Luoyang, China
10 November 2006

I recently stumbled upon the last half of one of those Top 50 Child Stars TV shows, which had a segment on Leonardo DiCaprio, showing interviews with him when he first started acting and would make jokes about how famous and rich he was, having had no way of knowing how astronomically rich and famous he would go on to be. Anyway, the show described his performance in What's Eating Gilbert Grape as one of his most charming, which turned out to be a tremendous understatement.

The film takes place in the motionless town of Endora, Iowa, and concerns the world of Gilbert Grape, whose life is in a constant state of turmoil. He works for a tiny local general store that has come under the competitive strain of a massive supermarket which has opened just outside of town. Needless to say, the store is a major topic of conversation among the local townspeople, because a big store in a town like Endora is big news.

I think the real charm of the movie lies in the fact that it is able to portray what you normally might consider to be a highly dysfunctional family and make them charming and, in the context of the town and world they live in, lovable. All of the problems that the family suffers on a daily basis are right at the forefront throughout the film, but no one ever really seems unhappy, except for the mother, and we get the feeling that her unhappiness is both the cause and the result of her morbid obesity. We get a brief explanation of how she came to be so heavy, but not really much more than, "I wasn't always like this."

Gilbert is about 21 and seems to be the only one mature (and mentally and physically able) enough to hold the family together, and the majority of the movie focuses on his struggles to do that in normal life. He is in charge of his mentally retarded brother Arnie (DiCaprio), has to periodically subdue his intolerably obnoxious sister, who looks like she belongs in a different family and a different society (and she believes that, too), while at the same time getting to work on time, hanging out at coffee shops with his similarly offbeat friends talking about the undertaking business. In between all of this, a local desperate housewife periodically orders groceries for delivery from the general store where he works, and she tends to be a little less desperate after he leaves.

It seems that all of this normality, charming in both its daily routine and its total difference from the daily monotony that the majority of us are used to, is presented to us so that we can get to know Gilbert, his daily life, and his family, as they are before the cataclysmic arrival of Becky (Juliette Lewis). Becky is on a vacation of sorts with her mother and stops in Endora long enough for her and Gilbert to develop a romantic interest in each other, and she thereby breaks the series of monotonies which the first part of the movie introduced us to. Monotonies which may have continued forever had she not arrived.

There are a series of events that take place after Becky arrives as Gilbert tries to assimilate her into his well-established life, testing the waters and taking new risks that he would never have even considered before, and learning something about himself from the results, as we all do.

The Grapes are a family that would very likely knock you off your feet if you were to run into almost any of them in person, but the movie is so good at treating them as humans that they are not a spectacle at all, even when Arnie is repeatedly climbing the local water tower, much to the chagrin of the local police force, who have been promised repeatedly that this is the last time. It never is, and when we see Arnie up there on the tower, we cheer for him, and the reason we cheer for him is the same reason why the movie is so effective.

We don't cheer for him because we identify with his struggle against a couple of grumpy cops, but as though he has made an accomplishment, because in his mind, he has.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Watch it for Leonardo DiCaprio's Astounding Performance!

Author: nama chakravorty from India
10 March 2012

'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' is a yet another film, that showcases & salutes the Talent of Leonardo DiCaprio. As a mentally challenged young boy, DiCaprio owns this film from start to end. This Performance is an Acting Study!

'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' Synopsis: Gilbert has to care for his brother Arnie and his obese mother, which gets in the way when love walks into his life.

As a film, 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' is emotional & heartfelt. Lasse Hallström Directs this Family-Drama with care & passion. Peter Hedges's Screenplay is emotionally engaging & heartfelt.

DiCaprio's Oscar-Nominated Performance is the Truly THE Greatest strength of 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape'. This is among his greatest performances. And as mentioned, this is among those performances, that can rank as an 'Acting Study'.

Among other performances, Johnny Depp is flawless as Gilbert Grape. Juliette Lewis is very good. Mary Steenburgen & John C. Reilly are decent. Darlene Cates is fantastic.

On the whole, 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape' is an emotionally engaging film, but over-here, its DiCaprio's Astounding Performance that Shines the Brightest!

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:


Author: AndrewPhillips from United Kingdom
10 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The story of a family, in a back water town, where we get to see each of them struggling with life. Johnny Depp, him again, gives yet another excellent performance as Gilbert, frustrated with his lot, wishing he could get away from his family, responsibilities and most of all Endora. He works to support his family, is having a less than fulfilling affair with an older married woman and is always looking out for his brother Arnie, played by Leonardo Di Caprio, but more of him later. Depp manages to capture every emotion perfectly, in an non-showy role he pulls you in and makes you believe.

Ultimately this is a simple story, man struggles then finds love, but it's so much more, the relationships of the family Grape are very well observed, from the mother hugely overweight, causing the structure of the house to crumble to the growing pains of the sisters. Where this story strikes gold is with Arnie, I remember when I first saw this film I had no idea who Di Caprio was, I actually thought they had used a disabled actor to play the part, when watching that year's Oscars and seeing him nominated for the role I was amazed. I have watched many films, and his performance is one of the best I have ever seen. Remarkable in it's accuracy and so moving, when we find him sitting in cold bath water having been told not to move hours earlier, well it breaks your heart, and Gilbert's rage demonstrating his frustration not really at Arnie but at life, just brilliant.

So this is a film that you should see, if only for Di Caprio, but it has much more than that.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Stillwater pool of emotions

Author: zBirdman from Raleigh, NC
21 September 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had heard many people praising this film long before I ever actually caught it myself, and I have to say that the praise is more than worthy. On the surface it is a simple story of an unusual family closely bound together, but in actuality it is really about life itself. The title of the film "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" (for international readers, the term 'eating' is a play on words meaning 'bothering') can refer to many facets of his character.


Gilbert is bothered by the problems that his mother's large size impose on the family, and yet he isn't bothered enough to realize the curiosity others have in her; even helping kids get a better look at her through the window.

Gilbert is bothered by having to take care of his rather impaired brother Arnie (masterfully played by DiCaprio), and yet he will not tolerate others to be disrespectful to him.

Gilbert is bothered by the fact that he is effectively trapped by his family, and yet he really has nowhere to go (which seems to be a favorite chant of Arnie.)

Gilbert is bothered by his father's suicide, which apparently triggered his mother's depression that led to her weight problem, and yet he seems constantly filled with the desire to just 'check out' himself but doesn't.

Gilbert is bothered by a non-emotional sexual fling which ultimately has predictable results, and has difficulty dealing with a true relationship with Juliette Lewis.

The care and concern that he feels for his family is powerful and tangible. An interesting metaphor used several times is him starting a fire (lighting a match), only to blow it out again, which kind of summarizes his existence; starting something, and then changing his mind (at least until the end of the film.)

This film deals with the kind of gut-level emotions that we all have but would rather not acknowledge, very much like 'The Cider House Rules' (by the same director.) A truly wonderful film that should not be missed.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

"I want to be a good person."

Author: travisyoung from United States
23 August 2008

"Tell me what you want as fast as it comes to you," says Becky to Gilbert as they relax in the thick brown grass beside the pond. Stretched out under the bright sun, he closes his eyes and begins to think deeply.

"House...I want a new house for the family." His dreamlike expression softens. "I want Mama to take aerobics classes. I want Ellen to grow up. I want a new brain for Arnie."

"What do you want for you," she asks, "just for you?"

The shadow of a smile drifts across his face, and he replies without hesitation, "I want to be a good person."

Gilbert Grape is a good person, he just doesn't realize it yet. Johnny Depp portrays the twentysomething Gilbert in Endora, Iowa (Pop. 1,091) as a young man asleep at the wheel of his life. As he narrates his story, we learn his older sister Amy is a mother type figure and a decent cook, only she has a tendency to accidentally start fires (like the one that burned down the elementary school she used to work at). Ellen, his younger sister, is a preening pubescent teen who has an opinion on everything - and it isn't a very good opinion either. Kids from around town come peeking through windows of the ramshackle Grape house to catch a glimpse of his 500-pound mother, who cannot come to the dinner table (or hardly go anywhere for that matter) so the dinner table comes to her.

And then there's Arnie.

Arnie Grape (in an Oscar-nominated performance by Leonardo DiCaprio) is about to turn eighteen in a few days, and suffers from severe mental retardation. His favorite pastime is to climb up the water tower in the middle of town, but climbing down is a different story. He is unable to dress or bathe himself. He likes to find inventive ways to decapitate grasshoppers, but cries when he realizes he has killed them. As the doctors have warned - and Arnie often cheerfully reminds everyone - he can go at any time. Gilbert puts it this way: "Some days you want him to live...some days you don't."

Just passing through this off-beat atmosphere is a curiously wise yet enigmatic young stranger named Becky (Juliette Lewis). Everyone else in the sleepy town sees Gilbert as a carbon copy of his father, who committed suicide fifteen years earlier. They see someone going nowhere, and in a sense he already is nowhere. But Becky sees more. She sees more than Gilbert can see in himself, and she sees that his circumstances have made him afraid to feel anything.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is the fine product of director Lasse Hallstrom. Just as in one of his later efforts, Chocolat, Hallstrom has created here a small world where stagnant lives hide under a blanket of tranquility, and a mysterious young woman blows in and changes everything. Beyond the perfect cast of supporting characters played brilliantly by Mary Steenburgen, John C. Reilly, and Crispin Glover, on the surface this could seem like a sentimental teen chickflick dramedy, but it is nothing of the sort. Because in this film Gilbert finds more than just love...for the first time ever, he finds himself, he discovers life, he even discovers death. He finds freedom, and through that freedom he is able to save his family from themselves.

Do not miss this movie.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:


Author: PeterWilliamson from Australia
1 September 2007

The storyline and direction is absolutely superb! One of my favourite Johnny Depp movies. It's probably the best "feel good" flick in years.

Johnny Depp performs brilliantly as the young, embarrassed, pressured but patient boy who just wants the best for him self and his family.

Juliette Lewis is excellent as the confident traveler who Johnny Depp has his eye on. If anyone else were to be cast in this role, it would be a mistake. She's the only one who can make this part work.

Leonardo Dicaprio delivers the best acting performance that I have ever seen! He was so convincing of his part (the disabled child) that if he hadn't of acted in other films I would of really believed he was mentally ill.

All together the tear jerker/feel good flick turned out to be absolutely excellent!

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A Very Good Film!

Author: ackstasis from Australia
29 August 2006

'What's Eating Gilbert Grape,' a film by Lasse Hallström, is not your average movie. There are no stunning visual effects, no mind-blowing stunt-work and even the film setting is somewhat dull and lifeless. However, the movie is a very good one, for it is driven by its diverse range of characters.

Gilbert Grape, played by Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Pirates Of The Caribbean), does not think much of his home town. He describes Endora, population 1091, as a place he sorely wishes not to be, like "dancing with no music." About 21 years of age, Gilbert became the fatherly figure in the somewhat dysfunctional household after his father committed suicide some years ago.

Alongside his work at a struggling local grocery store, Gilbert has a very difficult personal life. Between caring for his intellectually disabled brother (Leonardo DiCaprio- Titanic, Catch Me If You Can) and his dangerously obese mother (Darlene Cates), Gilbert is trapped in a very intimate relationship with Betty Carver (Mary Steenburgen), a lonesome housewife to whom Gilbert makes frequent deliveries. However, everything that Gilbert believes about life suddenly changes with the arrival of Becky (Juliette Lewis), a stranded camper who shows Gilbert to look at the bigger picture, rather than focus on the negatives.

The acting performances are generally superb. Depp, who mastered the role of a quiet outsider in 'Edward Scissorhands,' steps painlessly into the role of Gilbert Grape, a man confused by his own emotions and the sudden changes happening in his life. However, the highlight of the film is, without a doubt, the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio. In a both funny and convincing role that deservedly earned him an Oscar nomination, and displayed the greatness that he would later achieve, DiCaprio portrays Gilbert's intellectually disabled brother, Arnie, who is currently ecstatic about his coming 18th birthday party and occupies himself by climbing the town water tower and forgetting how to get down.

'What's Eating Gilbert Grape" is a great film with a warm heart. Its characters are convincingly portrayed and easy to relate to, and the story brings the drama to great levels. Perhaps the only flaw I found with the film was that there was much of the same throughout, and the dry Iowa setting was not very appealing to the eye. However, this somewhat dull repetitiveness also serves to convey the monotony of Gilbert's life- a routine that is suddenly plunged into chaos with each unforeseen change.

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