What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a captivating story about a family whose lives, roles, and interactions are drenched in more dysfunction than you could likely dream up. Betty, a single mother, is so overweight that she is confined to her home and her children worry about keeping the floor from collapsing underneath her. Arnie, the family’s rallying figure, is mentally disabled and in constant need of attention and protection by Gilbert, the eldest son who is himself searching for identity and meaning. Amy is an angry and selfish teenager desperate to escape her family’s reputation in their small town.
The Grape family is fighting the great battle to survive. They live disconnected, discontented lives, barely held together by some faint sense of responsibility to each other, or more likely, an inability to see or choose differently.
Yet as their story unfolds and a brilliant young woman named Becky enters in, this family, in the midst of dysfunction and against all odds, learns to care for and love one another.
Becky brings hope first to Gilbert and then to the whole Grape family. Near the movie’s end, Gilbert’s first and only timid touch of his mother gives a glimpse and a hope of coming restoration; a restoration culminated in the movie’s rather unexpected conclusion.
Not only does Gilbert Grape have a stacked cast of actors, it portrays the possibility of finding redemption in the broken parts of life and relationships. It’s a hope that comes only when someone (or something) else enters in, giving you new eyes to see and a new heart to love.