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What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

PG-13 | | Drama | 4 March 1994 (USA)
1:54 | Trailer

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After his father's death, Gilbert has to care for his mentally-disabled brother, Arnie, and his morbidly obese mother. This situation is suddenly challenged though, when love unexpectedly walks into his life.


Lasse Hallström


Peter Hedges (novel), Peter Hedges (screenplay)
996 ( 271)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
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
Penelope Branning Penelope Branning ... Becky's Grandma
Tim Green ... Mr. Lamson
Susan Loughran Susan Loughran ... Mrs. Lamson
Robert B. Hedges Robert B. Hedges ... Minister (as Rev. Robert B. Hedges)
Mark Jordan Mark Jordan ... Todd Carver


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


Arnie knows a secret. His big brother Gilbert is the greatest person on the planet. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

4 March 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Gilbert Grape See more »

Filming Locations:

Georgetown, Texas, USA See more »


Box Office


$11,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby | Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Arnie Grape originally was not supposed to be such a big character in the movie as he is, Leonardo DiCaprio turned Arnie into this really happy, excited character, and really made Arnie stand out, and stole the show. See more »


In Arnie's Party, from outside the house, Momma is seen looking out between two curtains. Later, from inside the house, she is looking out the window while lifting up a window blind. See more »


Gilbert: Did you ever see a beached whale on television?
Becky: Yeah.
Gilbert: Yeah. That's her. That's my mom.
Becky: [pauses] What about your dad?
Gilbert: Uh, some other day. Some other day.
See more »


References The Elephant Man (1980) See more »


Music from 'Sorry, Wrong Number'
(Sorry, Wrong Number (1948))
by Franz Waxman
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A change of pace for almost everyone involved results in spectacular success.
10 November 2006 | by Michael DeZubiriaSee all my reviews

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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