The film starts in the small town of Endora, Iowa. Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) is busy caring for his mentally challenged brother, Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio), as they wait for the many tourists’ trailers to pass through town during their yearly camp ritual at a nearby recreational area. His mother, Bonnie (Darlene Cates) is morbidly obese after years of depression following her husband’s suicide by hanging himself.
Bonnie hasn’t left the house in years, and is always found sitting on the sofa watching television. With Bonnie unable to care for them by herself, Gilbert has taken responsibility for repairing their shanty of a farmhouse while looking after Arnie, who has a habit of climbing up the town water tower if left unsupervised for too long.
All the while his older sister Amy (Laura Harrington) and younger sister Ellen (Mary Kate Schellhardt) slave away in the kitchen. The relationship between the brothers is one of care and protection.
Gilbert has taken on a secret love affair with a housewife, Betty (Mary Steenburgen), whilst her busy husband Ken (Kevin Tighe), is fully intent on selling Gilbert insurance for his family. However, throughout the film Gilbert confused his enthusiasm as his subtle way of hinting he knew about Gilbert’s affair with Betty.
A new chain supermarket has opened, threatening the small Lamson’s Grocery store where Gilbert works, as well as threatening all the other small-time businesses in Endora. The chain supermarket stocks all kinds of goods, rendering many of the local shops redundant.
Character to watch: Johnny Depp as Gilbert Grape.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?