What's Eating Gilbert Grape

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What's Eating Gilbert Grape
What's Eating Gilbert Grape poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLasse Hallström
Screenplay byPeter Hedges
Based onWhat's Eating Gilbert Grape
by Peter Hedges
Produced byBertil Ohlsson
David Matalon
Meir Teper
CinematographySven Nykvist
Edited byAndrew Mondshein
Music byAlan Parker
Björn Isfält
Matalon Teper Ohlsson
Distributed by
Release date
  • December 17, 1993 (1993-12-17)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$11 million[2]
Box office$10 million (US)[3]

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a 1993 American coming-of-age drama film directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Juliette Lewis and Darlene Cates. It follows 25-year-old Gilbert (Depp), a grocery store clerk caring for his mother (Cates) and his intellectually disabled younger brother (DiCaprio) in a sleepy Iowa town. Peter Hedges wrote the screenplay, based on his 1991 novel of the same name. Filming took place from November 1992 to January 1993 in various parts of Texas.

The film was well received, with Depp and DiCaprio's performances garnering universal acclaim. At the age of 19, DiCaprio received his first nominations for the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, becoming the seventh-youngest Best Supporting Actor nominee for the former.


In the small town of Endora, Iowa, Gilbert Grape is busy caring for Arnie, his intellectually disabled younger brother who is turning 18, as they wait for the many tourists' trailers to pass through town during an annual Airstreamers' Club gathering at a nearby recreational area. His father had hanged himself seventeen years earlier,[4] and since then his mother, Bonnie, has spent most of her days on the couch watching television and eating. With Bonnie's morbid obesity leaving her unable to care for her children on her own, Gilbert has taken responsibility for repairing the old house and being protective of Arnie, who has a habit of climbing the town water tower as well as trees, while his sisters Amy and Ellen do the other housework. 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.

A young woman named Becky 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 and Arnie's subsequent aquaphobia. 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 having 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 that he is always 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 over seven years — to become the laughing stock of the town as she goes to the police station, forcing Arnie's release.

Soon after, Arnie ruins two expensive birthday cakes, tries to run away from his bath and in his frustration, Gilbert finally snaps, hitting Arnie several times. Guilty and appalled at himself, Gilbert flees and drives away in his truck. Arnie also runs out and goes to Becky, who takes care of him for the evening and helps him overcome his aquaphobia until he is picked up by his sisters. After some soul searching aided by Becky, Gilbert returns home during Arnie's 18th birthday party to make amends to his family for running out and receive Arnie's reluctant forgiveness. He also apologizes to his mother for his behavior and vows not to be ashamed of her or let her be hurt anymore. She acknowledges how much of 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.

Following the 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 that she has died. With no way to remove her body from the second floor that evening, the police make plans to return with a crane the next day. To protect Bonnie's dignity, the family empty the home of possessions and set fire to it, burning it to ashes with their mother's body inside.

A year later, Amy gets a job managing a bakery in the Des Moines area while Ellen looks forward to switching schools and living in a bigger city. Gilbert waits by the side of the road with Arnie, now turning 19, waiting for the tourist trailers to come around again. As part of the convoy, Becky arrives with her grandmother and picks them both up.



Filming for What's Eating Gilbert Grape began on November 2, 1992, and concluded in late January 1993.[1] It 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.[5]

Film Review quoted actor Leonardo DiCaprio:

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 ill 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.[6]


The performance of Leonardo DiCaprio received widespread critical acclaim and 19-year-old Dicaprio garnered his first nominations for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, becoming the seventh-youngest Best Supporting Actor nominee for the former.

The film had a limited release on December 17, 1993, and wide release on March 4, 1994.[7] The wide release garnered $2,104,938 on its first weekend. It was considered a box office bomb, with the total domestic gross for the film being $10,032,765, although it gained a following later on.[8]

The film received positive reviews, with many critics praising the performances by Depp and DiCaprio. The latter was singled out for his performance in the film, with many saying DiCaprio stole the film from the lead actor Depp. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film was given a 90% "Certified Fresh" score and an average rating of 7.40/10 based on 50 reviews. The site's consensus states: "It's sentimental and somewhat predictable, but those are small complaints, given the tender atmosphere and moving performances at the heart of What's Eating Gilbert Grape."[9] Metacritic calculated an average score of 73 out of 100 based on 20 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[10]

The 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."[11] 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.[12] 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."[13] The Washington Post's Desson Howe thought the film was an earnest but highly predictable effort.[14] Film Review praised Leonardo DiCaprio as the mentally disabled brother, calling it "a performance of astonishing innocence and spontaneity", bringing "a touching credibility to a very difficult part".[6]

The film was nominated for the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics.[citation needed]

Year-end lists[edit]


Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
66th Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor Leonardo DiCaprio Nominated
51st Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Nominated
65th National Board of Review Awards Best Supporting Actor Award Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards 1993 Most Promising Young Actor Won
1993 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards New Generation Award Won

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "What's Eating Gilbert Grape". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
  2. ^ "What's Eating Gilbert Grape - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 2011-07-28.
  3. ^ "What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-07-23.
  4. ^ What's Eating Gilbert Grape (film). 1993. p. 1 hour 11 minutes.
  5. ^ Clinchy, Don (December 13, 2011). "Lone Star Cinema: What's Eating Gilbert Grape". Slackerwood. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Cameron-Wilson, James; Speed, F. Maurice (1994). Film Review 1994-5. Great Britain: Virgin Books. p. 148. ISBN 0-86369-842-5.
  7. ^ "What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
  8. ^ {{cite Though it was a box office flop, considering its $11 million budget it gained much more popularity on video in large part due to Dicaprio's nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the Oscars and the film still remains popular as a vehicle for Depp and DiCaprio. ,web|url=https://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=main&id=gilbertgrape.htm%7Ctitle=What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)|publisher=Box Office Mojo|access-date=2008-12-30}}
  9. ^ "What's Eating Gilbert Grape Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 10, 2021.
  10. ^ "What's Eating Gilbert Grape Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 28, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Maslin, Janet (1993-12-17). "Movie Review: What's Eating Gilbert Grape". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (1994-03-04). "What's Eating Gilbert Grape". Roger Ebert. rogerebert.com. Retrieved 2021-08-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ McCarthy, Todd (1993-12-06). "What's Eating Gilbert Grape Review". Variety. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
  14. ^ Howe, Desson (1994-03-04). "What's Eating Gilbert Grape". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
  15. ^ Elliott, David (December 25, 1994). "On the big screen, color it a satisfying time". The San Diego Union-Tribune (1, 2 ed.). p. E=8.
  16. ^ Craft, Dan (December 30, 1994). "Success, Failure and a Lot of In-between; Movies '94". The Pantagraph. p. B1.
  17. ^ Hunter, Stephen (December 25, 1994). "Films worthy of the title 'best' in short supply MOVIES". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  18. ^ Dudek, Duane (December 30, 1994). "1994 was a year of slim pickings". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 3.
  19. ^ Persall, Steve (December 30, 1994). "Fiction': The art of filmmaking". St. Petersburg Times (City ed.). p. 8.
  20. ^ Carlton, Bob (December 29, 1994). "It Was a Good Year at Movies". The Birmingham News. p. 12-01.

External links[edit]