What's Eating Gilbert Grape

What's Eating Gilbert Grape

4.5 35
Director: Lasse Hallström

Cast: Johnny Depp, Juliette Lewis, Mary Steenburgen

     
 

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Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom's follow-up to the underrated Once Around earned far more attention than its predecessor thanks to the judicious casting of perennial thinking woman's heartthrob Johnny Depp and a certain up-and-coming thespian by the name of Leonardo DiCaprio. A prisoner of his dysfunctional family's broken dreams in tiny Endora, IA, GilbertSee more details below

Overview

Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom's follow-up to the underrated Once Around earned far more attention than its predecessor thanks to the judicious casting of perennial thinking woman's heartthrob Johnny Depp and a certain up-and-coming thespian by the name of Leonardo DiCaprio. A prisoner of his dysfunctional family's broken dreams in tiny Endora, IA, Gilbert (Depp) serves as breadwinner and caretaker for his mother and siblings following his father's suicide and his older brother's defection. Momma (Darlene Cates) is a morbidly obese shut-in who hasn't left the house in seven years; her children include retarded Arnie (DiCaprio), who's about to turn 18 despite a host of negative medical forecasts, and terminally embarrassed Ellen (Mary Kate Schellhardt), who's emerging from an awkward adolescence. When he's not taking care of the difficult but tender Arnie, Gilbert spends his time fixing up the family's tattered farmhouse, working at a failing mom-and-pop grocery store and hanging with local misfits Bobby (Crispin Glover), an overly ambitious junior undertaker, and Tucker (John C. Reilly), a handyman who hankers after a job at the new burger franchise. Into this complicated but essentially unchanging social universe steps Becky (Juliette Lewis), a thoughtful young woman who's been escorting her nomadic grandmother from state to state in a mobile-home caravan. As Becky teaches Gilbert to finally consider his own happiness for a change, she disrupts both his family obligations and his long-running affair with a lonely housewife (Mary Steenburgen). Adapted by Peter Hedges from his own novel of the same name, What's Eating Gilbert Grape was the first and only film role for non-actress Cates, whom the filmmakers discovered on an episode of the Sally Jesse Raphael Show titled "Too Heavy to Leave Their House."

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Charmingly offbeat and low-key, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? focuses on the plight of its eponymous protagonist, a young man who’d love nothing more than to leave his dysfunctional family and sleepy rural community. But Gilbert, played with warmth and sensitivity by Johnny Depp, is restrained by a sense of duty to his morbidly obese mother (Darlene Cates) and mentally handicapped younger brother (Leonardo DiCaprio, who snagged an Oscar nomination for his eye-opening turn). He can’t bring himself to bolt, even when his older lover (Mary Steenburgen) announces that she’s going to leave him behind. Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat) exhibits a surprising affinity for small-town America, which he depicts in an occasionally unflattering but generally accurate manner. His efforts are most readily apparent in the performances of his principal players, who are uniformly excellent. Depp anchors the film, but DiCaprio and Juliette Lewis -- playing a trailer-park teen who gets Gilbert on the rebound -- provide rock-solid support, and Cates (a nonactor whom Hallstrom discovered on a talk show) is almost unbearably poignant as a character who’s as pitiable as she is unsympathetic. Neither as grotesque or flamboyant as other films that have traversed similar dramatic byways, Gilbert Grape lingers in memory, owing to the honesty with which it portrays the primary characters and the constricted world they inhabit.
All Movie Guide - Brian J. Dillard
This tender but unflinching examination of the tension between individual happiness and family obligation neatly condenses a large ensemble, a lengthy backstory and a lot of subtext into two delightfully cinematic hours. Just a touch of voice-over from leading man Johnny Depp sets the stage for a story that is told from his character's viewpoint even as it takes in a host of supporting players and deals with such tangential issues as frustrated infidelity and the strip-malling of America. After his roguish turn in This Boy's Life, Leonardo DiCaprio made his name as a serious young actor with his top-notch work as the retarded Arnie; spot-on physical and vocal mannerisms broadcast DiCaprio's technical prowess, but his performance here has the sort of emotional undertow and sly, if childlike, intelligence that has eluded other actors as accomplished as Dustin Hoffman in similar roles. Non-actress Darlene Cates is fantastic as the manipulative yet ultimately dignified and sympathetic Momma, while the supporting cast, from John C. Reilly and Crispin Glover to Juliette Lewis and Mary Streenburgen, provides comic asides, thoughtful interludes, and catharsis upon command. In the end, though, it's Depp and director Lasse Hallstrom who hold it all together, the former actually using his soulful eyes instead of coasting on the beauty of his gravity-defying cheekbones, the latter deftly balancing pathos and contemplation and keeping his large cast and story in line.
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert
One of the most enchanting movies of the year.
Austin Chronicle
All tics, flailings, and full-open, drooling laughter, DiCaprio seems to have captured the damaged heart and soul of Arnie Grape. Marc Savlov

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Product Details

Release Date:
01/01/1998
UPC:
0097363295532
Original Release:
1993
Rating:
PG13
Source:
Paramount

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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Johnny Depp Gilbert Grape
Juliette Lewis Becky
Mary Steenburgen Betty Carver
Leonardo DiCaprio Arnie Grape
Darlene Cates Momma
Laura Harrington Amy Grape
Mary Kate Schellhardt Ellen Grape
Kevin Tighe Mr. Carver
John C. Reilly Tucker Van Dyke
Crispin Glover Bobby McBurney
Penelope Branning Becky's Grandma
Gail Levin Actor
Tim Green Mr. Lamson
Susan Loughran Mrs. Lamson
Cameron Finley Doug Carver
Libby Villari Waitress
Joe Stevens Burger Barn manager
Mona Lee Fultz Bakery Worker
George Haynes Dave
Brady Coleman Sheriff Farrel

Technical Credits
Lasse Hallström Director,Executive Producer
Alan C. Blomquist Executive Producer
Jo Edna Boldin Casting
Janet Brady Stunts
David Brownlow Sound/Sound Designer
Bernt Amadeus Capra Production Designer
Chris Hayes Camera Operator
Peter Hedges Screenwriter
David B. Householter Asst. Director
Björn Isfält Score Composer
Kevin Jewison Camera Operator
Renee Ehrlich Kalfus Costumes/Costume Designer
Gail Levin Casting
David Matalon Producer
Anastas Michos Camera Operator
Andrew Mondshein Editor
John Myhre Art Director
Sven Nykvist Cinematographer
Bertil Ohlsson Producer
Alan Parker Score Composer
Scott Prescott Special Effects
Gary Price Stunts
Gretchen Rau Set Decoration/Design
Paul Stewart Special Effects
Meir Teper Producer
Patty York Makeup

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