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Whats Eating Gilbert Grape

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Lasse Hallstrom

Peter Hedges

United States





Whats Eating Gilbert Grape movie poster

Release date
December 17, 1993 (1993-12-17)

Peter Hedges (novel), Peter Hedges (screenplay)

National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor

Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Johnny Depp
(Gilbert Grape),
Leonardo DiCaprio
(Arnie Grape),
Juliette Lewis
Darlene Cates
(Bonnie Grape),
Mary Steenburgen
(Betty Carver),
Laura Harrington
(Amy Grape)

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A film about the love you find...In the last place you look.

What s eating gilbert grape trailer

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a 1993 American drama film directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Johnny Depp, Juliette Lewis, Darlene Cates and Leonardo DiCaprio. The film follows 24-year-old Gilbert (Depp), a grocery store clerk caring for his morbidly obese mother and mentally impaired younger brother in a sleepy Midwestern town. Peter Hedges wrote the screenplay, adapted from his 1991 novel of the same name. The film was well-received; DiCaprio received his first Academy Award nomination for his role.


Whats Eating Gilbert Grape movie scenes

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Whats Eating Gilbert Grape movie scenes

In the small town of Endora, Iowa, Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) is busy caring for Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio), his brother with a developmental disability, as they wait for the many tourists' trailers to pass through town during an annual Airstreamer's Club gathering at a nearby recreational area. His mother, Bonnie (Darlene Cates), gave up on life after her husband hanged himself in the basement 17 years earlier. She spends almost all of her time on the couch watching TV and eating. With Bonnie unable to care for her children on her own due to her morbid obesity, Gilbert has taken responsibility for repairing the old house and looking after Arnie, who has a habit of climbing the town water tower, while his sisters Amy (Laura Harrington) and Ellen (Mary Kate Schellhardt) do the rest. The relationship between the brothers is of both care and protection, as Gilbert continually enforces the "nobody touches Arnie" policy. A new FoodLand supermarket has opened, threatening the small Lamson's Grocery where Gilbert works. In addition, Gilbert is having an affair with a married woman, Betty Carver (Mary Steenburgen).

Whats Eating Gilbert Grape movie scenes

The family is looking forward to Arnie's 18th birthday. A young woman named Becky (Juliette Lewis) and her grandmother are stuck in town when the International Harvester Travelall pulling their trailer breaks down. Gilbert's unusual life circumstances threaten to get in the way of their budding romance. In order to spend time with Becky to watch the sunset, Gilbert leaves Arnie alone in the bath. He returns home late and finds that Arnie is still in the bath the following morning, shivering in the now-cold water; his guilt is compounded by his family's anger. His affair with Betty ends when she leaves town in search of a new life following her husband's death—he drowned in the family's wading pool after suffering a heart attack. Becky becomes close to both Gilbert and Arnie. While they are distracted during one of their talks, Arnie returns to the water tower he is forever trying to climb. Arnie is arrested after being rescued from the top of the tower, causing his mother—who has not left the house in seven years—to become the object of pointing, laughing and gawking from the townspeople as she goes to the police station, forcing Arnie's release.

Whats Eating Gilbert Grape movie scenes

Soon after, Arnie tries to run away yet again from his bath and in his frustration Gilbert finally snaps, hitting Arnie several times. Guilty and appalled at himself, Gilbert takes his truck and runs out without another word. Arnie also runs out and goes to Becky's, who takes care of him for the evening before he is picked up by his sisters. After some soul searching aided by Becky, Gilbert returns home during the birthday party to make amends to his family for running out and to be forgiven by Arnie which, with only the slightest hesitation, he is. He apologizes to his mother for his behavior and promises that he is not ashamed of her and that he will not let her be hurt any more. She admits to Gilbert her knowledge of what a burden she has become to the family, and he forgives her. He introduces her to Becky—something he had been reluctant to do earlier.

Whats Eating Gilbert Grape movie scenes

Following Arnie's 18th birthday party, Bonnie climbs the stairs to her bedroom for the first time since her husband's suicide. Arnie later tries to wake her but discovers she has died. The children, not willing to let their mother become the joke of the town by having her corpse lifted from the house by crane, empty their family home of possessions and set it on fire. A year later, Gilbert describes what happened to his family after his mother's death, as Gilbert and his brother Arnie wait by the side of a road for Becky, who arrives with her grandmother, and picks them up.


  • Johnny Depp as Gilbert Grape
  • Juliette Lewis as Becky
  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Arnie Grape
  • Mary Steenburgen as Betty Carver
  • Darlene Cates as Bonnie Grape
  • Laura Harrington as Amy Grape
  • Mary Kate Schellhardt as Ellen Grape
  • Kevin Tighe as Ken Carver
  • John C. Reilly as Tucker Van Dyke
  • Crispin Glover as Bobby McBurney
  • Penelope Branning as Becky's Grandma
  • Libby Villari as the Waitress
  • Production

    What's Eating Gilbert Grape was shot in Texas, in various towns and cities; Austin and Pflugerville were primary locations, as well as Manor, where the water tower featured in the film was located.


    The film had a limited release on December 17, 1993 and wide release on March 4, 1994. The wide release garnered $2,104,938 on its first weekend. Total domestic gross for the film was $10,032,765.

    Critical reception

    The film received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film was given an 89% "Certified Fresh" rating. New York Times film critic Janet Maslin praised DiCaprio's performance, writing "the film's real show-stopping turn comes from Mr. DiCaprio, who makes Arnie's many tics so startling and vivid that at first he is difficult to watch.... The performance has a sharp, desperate intensity from beginning to end." Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times described it as "... one of the most enchanting films of the year" and said that DiCaprio deserved to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for which he was nominated. Todd McCarthy of Variety found the film a "bemused view on life" and remarked that "Depp manages to command center screen with a greatly affable, appealing characterization." Washington Post's Desson Howe thought the film was an earnest but highly predictable effort. Film Review praised Leonardo DiCaprio as the mentally handicapped brother, calling it "a performance of astonishing innocence and spontaneity", bringing "a touching credibility to a very difficult part". Film Review quoted the actor:

    I had to really research and get into the mind of somebody with a disability like that. So I spent a few days at a home for mentally retarded teens. We just talked and I watched their mannerisms. People have these expectations that mentally retarded children are really crazy, but it's not so. It's refreshing to see them because everything's so new to them.

    The film was nominated for the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics.

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