Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1990s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)

This eccentric, charming film by Lasse (My Life as a Dog, 1985) Hallström was one of the freshest and most original movies of 1993.

Johnny Depp (something of a professional weirdo) gave his most understated performance to date in the title role, playing the reluctant breadwinner in a dysfunctional family in Endora, Iowa – a town where nothing ever happens and nothing ever will.

A lucky older brother, who is never seen, escaped years ago, but Gilbert still has to take care of two sisters, a mentally-challenged younger brother with a penchant for climbing to the top of the local water tower, and a 500-pound mother who lives on the sofa in front of the TV set with a remote control in her hand and hasn’t been out of the house in seven years.


Worse still, the house is falling apart (Mum’s weight is cracking the cellar beams wide open under the living room floor) and the grocery store where Gilbert works as a delivery boy is going out of business due to competition from the new supermarket down the road.

Gilbert would like to run away with Becky (Juliette Lewis) who lives in a mobile trailer and swims in the lake with her clothes on, but the only way out is to burn down the house with Mum inside.

All of the cockeyed facts in Gilbert’s life are presented in the most natural, straightforward manner as if they were perfectly normal, and the flawless cast acts with peerless perfection.


Mr Depp may be the one whose name appears above the title, but the real star is Leonardo DiCaprio as the brother, Arnie – an 18-year-old in the body of a 14-year-old with the mind of an infant.

Their mother is beautifully played by the weighty Darlene Cates, a real 500-pound agoraphobic from Texas who had not left her own house for five years before director Hallstrom discovered her tearfully telling her story on The Sally Jessy Raphael Show.

Gilbert Grape
Johnny Depp
Juliette Lewis
Betty Carver
Mary Steenburgen
Arnie Grape
Leonardo DiCaprio
Tucker Van Dyke
John C Reilly
Bonnie Grape
Darlene Cates
Amy Grape
Laura Harrington
Ellen Grape
Mary Kate Schellhardt
Bobby McBurney
Crispin Glover
Mr Carver
Kevin Tighe

Lasse Hallström