Written by Peter Hedges, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is the story of the Grape family, which consists of Gilbert, Amy, Arnie, Ellen, and Bonnie. The movie is narrated by Gilbert Grape. Arnie is one of the main characters in the movie. Arnie is a 17-year-old male who shows signs of having Mental Retardation and Autism. Throughout the majority of the movie, Arnie is looking forward to the birthday party his family is going to be throwing for him for his 18th birthday. The movie is based on how the members of the Grape family are affected by Arnie’s disabilities, and the daily struggles they go through while caring for a family member with disabilities. All of Arnie’s siblings help out, but Gilbert does the majority of the work when it comes to caring for Arnie. Gilbert takes Arnie to work with him at the local grocery store, gives him his bath on a daily basis, and is always looking after him. Although, sometimes, Gilbert does not watch his brother close enough and he usually ends up climbing the water tower in town or is getting into some other kind of trouble.
Gilbert Grape was the one appointed to caring for Arnie since he is the only man left in the house since Mr. Grape committed suicide seven years ago. Mr. Grape’s death left their mother, Bonnie, severely depressed and morbidly obese. Bonnie has not left the house in seven years, and her weight has left her incapable of caring for Arnie for years. Although it is obvious that Bonnie does feel guilty about leaving the care of Arnie completely up to her children, it is at times apparent throughout the movie that Bonnie and the children make it sound like Arnie may be the cause behind the death of Mr. Grape and the reason for the depression and current condition of their mother. It is evident throughout the movie the stress the Grape family is under. They are always arguing, and all of their arguments seem to revolve around one thing; Arnie.
Accuracies, Inaccuracies, Stereotypes
In What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, there were many things about the movie that were very truthful. The performance of Arnie Grape, played by Leonardo DiCaprio was very believable and consistent throughout the entire film. His portrayal of an individual with disabilities was spot on and I believe that anyone familiar with working with individuals with disabilities similar to Arnie’s would be proud of DiCaprio’s performance in the movie. Also, the second accuracy within the film was the way that the family sometimes treated Arnie like he was a nuisance. At times, families with a child who has a disability feel as though their child is nothing but a large burden to their life. As sad as it may sound, it is the truth in most cases; and it was very true especially with the Grape family. It was obvious at times throughout the movie that Arnie did have a negative impact on the lives of the members of the Grape family and sometimes they just did not want to be bothered because it was just too much for them. I believe that that is accurate because anyone who cares for a family member with a disability needs a break sometimes, and without the occasional break or help from another family member, it can be very strenuous to one’s own health.
One of the most ridiculous inaccuracies that were stated in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape happened within the first couple minutes of the movie when Gilbert, the narrator, says that the Doctor said that Arnie would not live past the age of 10, and that he could now go any day now. Having a disability is not a death sentence, and even though the movie was set back in the early 1990’s, I don’t think doctor’s views on developmental disabilities such as Arnie’s have changed much since that time. There are many things that can be done for an individual with developmental disabilities as long as they are taken care of properly. Another inaccuracy in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is that several times throughout the movie,...