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What's Eating Gilbert Grape

4.7 out of 5 stars 693 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

This is the movie that Leonardo DiCaprio received an Oscar nomination for, five years before "Titanic". And, in fact, this is the movie that should have made him a star, he's so good in it. Based on the novel by Peter Hedges (who adapted his own book) and directed by Lasse Hallstr??m ("My Life as a Dog"), this is the funny, moody tale of a young man named Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) who lives at home in a small town with his 500-pound Momma (beautifully played by nonpro Darlene Cates), his mentally retarded younger brother Arnie (DiCaprio, utterly convincing), and his sisters. Not a lot happens--Arnie keeps climbing a water tower and getting stuck; Gilbert is involved with a married woman (Mary Steenburgen), then meets a nice new girl in town who's closer to his age (Juliette Lewis). And that's exactly what makes this movie so much more than your run-of-the-mill Hollywood product: it's not about some mechanical, formulaic plot; it's about these characters, and it allows you to spend some time with them and get to know them. Depp may have started out as a TV teen idol on "21 Jump Street", but his feature film choices since then--in such wonderfully offbeat and diverse movies as "Cry-Baby", "Edward Scissorhands", "Benny & Joon", "Donnie Brasco"--have made him one of the most interesting, unpredictable, and risk-taking young actors in American movies. "--Jim Emerson"

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Lewis, Mary Steenburgen, Darlene Cates
  • Directors: Lasse Hallström
  • Writers: Peter Hedges
  • Producers: Lasse Hallström, Alan C. Blomquist, Bertil Ohlsson, David Matalon, Meir Teper
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: November 17, 2001
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (693 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005Q79A
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,301 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
"What's Eating Gilbert Grape" is a deeply moving glimpse into the frustration, sadness and triumph of love in what some would classify as a dysfunctional family. As the mentally retarded Arnie, Leonardo DiCaprio turns in an incredibly realistic performance; his gestures, his often repetitive speech...everything about his acting seems so perfect for the role he plays. (And I say this as one who has worked with the mentally retarded). It is no wonder he received an Oscar nomination. The story is told mainly through the eyes of Johnny Depp's character, Gilbert who despite his deep love for Arnie is still frustrated by the limitations that caring for Arnie places on his life. Top that off with a morbidly obese mother whom Gilbert is (reluctantly) ashamed of and a younger sister who is an oftentimes irritating troublemaker and you can see why Gilbert sometimes yearns for life to be a little easier. As a clerk in the local grocery store, Gilbert has fallen into a relationship with an older married woman (played by Mary Steenburgen) but finds himself drawn to a new girl in town (Juliette Lewis) with whom he develops a friendly, then caring relationship. Strained relations with the town's law enforcement officials ensue after Arnie repeatedly climbs the water tower and Arnie is arrested. Gilbert's mother played by Darlene Cates) who hasn't left the house in seven years, takes matters into her own hands and the results are at once triumphant and tragic. Depp is marvelous as Gilbert. His sense of despair and self hatred after he loses control and hits Arnie seem totally realistic and understandable. The younger sister who seems like such a brat at the beginning becomes more humanized as we see her vulnerability.Read more ›
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Format: VHS Tape
What's Eating Gilbert Grape is my favorite movie. I have seen it dozens of times and I never get bored with it. The reason...Leonardo DiCaprio. Never mind "Titanic". If you want to see DiCaprio at his best, this is the film to see! As many times as I watch it, his portrayal of Arnie, a retarded soon to be 18 year old boy, never ceases to amaze me! His performance is captivating. DiCaprio becomes Arnie. This film is an extremely touching story of family loyalty, albeit dysfunctional family loyalty. The title character is played exceptionally well by Johnny Depp, but it is difficult to focus on anyone but Leonardo DiCaprio. The best scenes in the film are those between Depp and DiCaprio. Gilbert is Arnie's primary caretaker. His love for Arnie is undeniable but marred by frustration and on occasion, resentment that he has been saddled with the burden of being his brother's keeper. He sums it up best with the line, "Somedays you want him to live, somedays...you don't". Gilbert is not as cruel as that makes him sound. It's just that he has no life other than Arnie and a "going nowhere" fling with a married woman. His two sisters are kept pretty busy taking care of their obese Mother, whom Gilbert describes as a "beached whale". It all takes place in a small town where it seems just about all of it's residents want more out of life. Gilbert learns there is more to life when he meets a free spirited young woman who is passing through town. Naturally, this further complicates his already complicated life. I will most likely watch it dozens more times. What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a beautiful and moving film.
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Format: VHS Tape
Set in the fictional town of Endora, Illinois (quite a pregnant name for a city), "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" focuses on the down but not yet out Grape family: a mother (Darlene Cates) who weighs over 500 pounds, two sisters (Laura Harrington and Mary Kate Schellhardt) with enough bottled up anger to drown a desert town, a mentally retarded brother named Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio) who's about to turn 18 despite assurances that he'd never live a third that long, and Gilbert (Johnny Depp), the glue that holds them all together. The burdens of the family, be they running errands in his truck or bathing his brother, all fall on Gilbert's shoulders. The purpose of this particular story is to find out what happens when that burden is too heavy a weight to bear.
Everyone in the film is constantly expecting a lot from Gilbert. Whether it's the plea from his momma that he's "gotta do better", the complaints from his sisters that he never does anything (when in fact, he does everything), or the selfishness of the married woman (Mary Steenburgen) with whom he's having an unfulfilling affair, Gilbert can't seem to ever be good enough. Contrast this with the just-happy-to-be-here existence of Arnie, who blithely tells anyone that will listen, "I can go at anytime." It's a wonder that Gilbert ever has the strength to go on.
But go on he does, using just as much effort to keep the family together as he does repressing his own anger. The film's title is ironic, in that Gilbert shows little anguish; it just appears that something is "eating" at him. It's a rather benign description of his state of mind, but on the surface it works quite well. For the most part, he vents his anger in passively destructive ways.
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