What's Eating Gilbert Grape

What's Eating Gilbert Grape Study Guide

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a 1993 American drama movie. The film, directed by Lasse Hallström, stars Johnny Depp, Juliette Lewis, Darlene Cates, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Hallström's realistic aesthetic, often dubbed cinéma vérité, allowed the fictional story to be told both subtly and poignantly. Hallström, a Swedish director, catapulted to international fame after the film's release. Leonardo DiCaprio, just seventeen years old at the time of filming, was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for his performance.

The movie focuses on the titular protagonist, Gilbert, a 24-year-old grocery store clerk living in the small Iowa town of Endora. Following his father's suicide, Gilbert assumes the family's paternal role. He works long hours at Lamson's Grocery in order to provide financially for his mother and three siblings. Even when he's at work, Gilbert is in charge of caring for Arnie, his developmentally delayed brother who is about to celebrate his eighteenth birthday. His obese mother, Bonnie, is house-bound and ashamed of the burden she places on her children.

Becky and her grandmother are driving through Endora when their camper breaks down. Forced to spend a week in the town, Becky becomes acquainted with Arnie and Gilbert, and she develops a romantic relationship with Gilbert. As Gilbert opens up to Becky, he begins to reject his family and the pressures they have placed on him. As Gilbert slacks on his responsibilities, his family's frustration mounts. Gilbert must learn to not be ashamed of his upbringing. How can Gilbert remain a responsible brother while simultaneously taking the time to nurture and care for himself?

What's Eating Gilbert has been praised by critics for its thoughtful and unique narrative style, as well as its compelling plot and characters. The movie is considered a standout piece of 1990's film.