Released in 1993, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” is a coming-of-age drama that has stood the test of time. Directed by Lasse Hallström and based on the novel of the same name by Peter Hedges, the film tells the story of Gilbert Grape, a young man struggling to take care of his family in a small town in Iowa.
With a star-studded cast and a poignant storyline, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” has left a lasting impact on audiences and continues to be a beloved film over 25 years later. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the cast, the story, and the legacy of this timeless classic.
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The Cast of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”
Johnny Depp as Gilbert Grape
At the time of the film’s release, Johnny Depp was already a well-known actor, having starred in popular films such as “Edward Scissorhands” and “Benny & Joon”. However, his portrayal of Gilbert Grape solidified his status as a versatile and talented actor.
Depp’s performance as the responsible yet conflicted Gilbert earned him critical acclaim and further established him as a leading man in Hollywood.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Arnie Grape
“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” marked Leonardo DiCaprio’s first major film role, and it was a role that would launch him into stardom. At just 19 years old, DiCaprio delivered a powerful and nuanced performance as Arnie Grape, Gilbert’s younger brother who has a developmental disability.
DiCaprio’s performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, solidifying his place as one of the most talented actors of his generation.
Juliette Lewis as Becky
Juliette Lewis plays Becky, a free-spirited young woman who catches Gilbert’s eye. Lewis brings a refreshing energy to the film and her chemistry with Depp is palpable.
Lewis was already an established actress at the time of the film’s release, having starred in films such as “Cape Fear” and “Natural Born Killers”. Her performance in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” further cemented her as a talented and versatile actress.
Darlene Cates as Bonnie Grape
Darlene Cates plays Bonnie Grape, Gilbert’s mother who is morbidly obese and has been confined to her home for years. Cates, who was discovered by the film’s screenwriter Peter Hedges, delivers a powerful and emotional performance as a woman struggling with her weight and her role as a mother.
Cates’ performance in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” was her first and only major film role, but it left a lasting impact on audiences and earned her critical acclaim.
Other Notable Cast Members
The film also features strong performances from Mary Steenburgen as Betty Carver, a woman who catches Gilbert’s father’s eye, and John C. Reilly as Gilbert’s friend Tucker. The supporting cast, including Crispin Glover, Laura Harrington, and Kevin Tighe, also deliver memorable performances that add depth to the film.
The Story of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”
“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” follows the story of Gilbert Grape, a young man who is struggling to take care of his family in a small town in Iowa. Gilbert’s father has passed away, leaving him to take care of his mother, who is morbidly obese and has been confined to her home for years. His younger brother Arnie, has a developmental disability.
Gilbert’s life is turned upside down when Becky, a free-spirited young woman, comes to town and catches his eye. As Gilbert navigates his complicated family dynamics and his growing feelings for Becky, he must also confront his own personal struggles and desires.
The film explores themes of family, responsibility, and the search for happiness in a small town where everyone knows your business. It’s a poignant and emotional story that has resonated with audiences for decades.
The Legacy of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”
Critical Acclaim and Awards
“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” received widespread critical acclaim upon its release, with many praising the performances of the cast and the emotional depth of the story. The film currently holds a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been praised for its sensitive portrayal of characters with disabilities.
The film also received numerous award nominations, including an Academy Award nomination for Leonardo DiCaprio and a Golden Globe nomination for Johnny Depp.
“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” has become a cultural touchstone, with many references and homages. To the film appearing in popular media. The film has also been studied in film classes and has been praised for its realistic portrayal of small-town life and family dynamics.
Over 25 years after its release, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” continues to be a beloved film. It has gained a cult following and is often cited as one of the best coming-of-age films of all time. The film’s themes and messages are still relevant today, making it a timeless classic. It will continue to be watched and appreciated for years to come.
“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” is a film that has stood the test of time. Thanks to its talented cast, emotional story, and enduring themes. It’s a film that continues to resonate with audiences and has left a lasting impact on popular culture. Whether you’re watching it for the first time or revisiting it after many years. “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” is a film that will stay with you long after the credits roll.