Movie Review: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is Full of Emotions


Paramount Pictures

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

Warning – spoilers ahead!

This week, I have been watching lots of Netflix. I’ve started new shows, watched new movies, and rewatched many things. One new movie, that isn’t really new, is called What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

Gilbert Grape, played by Johnny Depp, is a young adult who lives in a town called Endora in Iowa. He works in a grocery store to provide for his family. Gilbert’s family consists of his two younger sisters, Amy and Ellen, and his younger brother, Arnie, who is autistic. His mother, after grieving their father’s death, is unable to properly take care of her children.

After Gilbert’s father hung himself in the basement of their own home, Gilbert had to step up and become the man of their household. His mother was hit with so much shock and grief when her husband passed away that she overate so much and became obese over the years. She spent every day on their living room couch, unable to provide for her kids, resulting in Gilbert finding a job at a grocery store to provide for his family.

“I know a boy whose name is Arnie, He’s, er, about to turn eighteen and have a big party, I know a boy whose name is Arnie. Come on down, buddy. Come on.”

— Johnny Depp - Gilbert Grape

The second main focus of the movie is seventeen-year-old Arnie. Arnie, played by a young Leonardo DiCaprio, is autistic and relies on his older brother as his primary caretaker. Arnie likes to get into some trouble, so he follows Gilbert wherever he goes every day. Arnie turns 18 in the movie and has a big party planned. Arnie loves climbing and is often seen in a tree or climbing a water tower numerous times throughout the movie.

Gilbert meets a girl who is new to Endora, Becky. Becky spends most of her life traveling to new places while living with her grandmother in a trailer. Becky is seen riding her bike to lots of places, finding herself stumbling into Gilbert most days. One day, Gilbert has to deliver groceries to Becky and her grandmother’s trailer and realizes that he has feelings for her. He doesn’t admit, to himself or Becky, that he is falling for her until nearly the end of the movie.

Amy and Ellen spend their days around the house helping take care of their mother and providing for her needs. They make every meal and bring the table to her on the couch so they can still eat together as a family. Gilbert wishes that Ellen would finally grow up, as Ellen is pestering Arnie in most scenes.

The day of Arnie’s party was bittersweet. Their mother finally decided to leave the couch and go to the new bed that Amy built for her. She spends all of Arnie’s party from her bed spectating as she is seen as a joke and a laughing-stock to all of Endora. The kids finally start to become more of a family, and Gilbert and Becky are beginning to grow as a couple. Things seem to be looking up for the family.

Unfortunately, the night of Arnie’s party, their mother passed away in her bed, leaving the whole family devastated. The police have to leave the scene due to her being too heavy to remove from the house. Gilbert knew that once word spread that his mother died, everyone would crowd their home to see her being taken out of their house. Gilbert decides he won’t let everyone laugh at her, and the family burns the house with their mother’s deceased body inside.

Overall, the movie is very good. It portrays some serious topics and is aimed more at an older and more mature audience. A couple of scenes had me smiling, and then crying just seconds later.

Despite its age, it is definitely a movie to take a chance on.