Summary 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, Arnie’s younger sister, Ellen calls Arnie crazy. Individuals with disabilities are not crazy. Sure, they may do things out of the ordinary, or do things that we as regular people may not find acceptable to do, but that does not make them crazy, it just makes them different from us.
Everyone is different from each other in one way or another, but that definitely does not make them crazy. Although, Arnie does do things over and over again, such as climbing the water tower in town, and does not learn from being reprimanded, but that in the least does not make him crazy. Also, another inaccuracy I would like to point out from the movie is when his family member’s think and say that Arnie is totally helpless. Although, in some cases, this may be a true statement, in Arnie’s case, it is not true at all.
He is able to do many things on his own. He is very capable of finding the water tower on his own, he is able to speak and express his wants and needs clearly, and he is also able to communicate clearly with others. There were quite a few stereotypes in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and most of them were very common among people today. Like for example, when Arnie climbed the water tower and the police decided to arrest him, they thought that he should have known better.
Although, he was told numerous times before not to climb the water tower, for an individual with a disability, it is not an easy concept to grasp, and individuals with developmental disabilities more often than not do not understand right from wrong. Also, when arresting Arnie, they do not take his disability into consideration whatsoever. They were very rough with him and very rude as well. Another stereotype that was cast upon Arnie in the movie was when Gilbert was with his friends as the restaurant and Arnie was playing the pinball machine.
He was being very verbal while he was playing the game, and many of the other patrons eating in the restaurant were staring at him as though no one else would be excited if they won a game or upset that they lost. They sort of glance at him like he has some sort of horrible disease, but much to their dismay, he is just as normal as the common folk. Take-away Message In the movie there are quite a few negative scenarios that could leave many viewers who are unfamiliar with individuals with disabilities with a bad taste in their mouths.
One of the take-away messages that one may get from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is that it is acceptable to yell and reprimand an individual with disabilities in public. This could not be further from the truth. This could have been taken from the scene where Ellen is watching Arnie, and he is headed toward the water tower and in her attempts to stop him, she pulls him down to the ground by his shirt, and proceeds to yell and scream at him like he is an animal. She also hits and kicks him while he is lying on the ground. This is a very negative thing for anyone to witness and it could not be further from the truth.
Another message that people could have taken-away from the movie is that many family members and caregivers for individuals and family members with disabilities will eventually leave the family due to frustrations, commit suicide, or hit their disabled child. This is a very untruthful statement as well. Even though Mr. Grape did commit suicide and in the movie, the children and Bonnie do casually mention that it is because of Arnie that Mr. Grape is dead, it is not said for sure. Many people choose to be caregivers for individuals with disabilities and do it for their entire lives.
It takes a special person to take care of a person with disabilities, and it takes a lot of time and patience, and without that, you will most likely be an unsuccessful caregiver. There are certain characteristics that a caregiver for a person with a disability must hold, and if you lack any of those characteristics, you will most likely not be able to handle the stress of caring for a person or child who is disabled. In addition to the ones mentioned before, another common take away message is that all individuals with disabilities are “crazy”.
This was covered in another part of my paper, but it applies here as well. When Ellen calls her brother “crazy” numerous times throughout the movie, it makes people who are not familiar with disabilities wonder “are people with disabilities really crazy? ” and the answer is no, they are not. Although there are many different kinds of disabilities out there, the disabilities that Arnie has do not make him crazy. There is not any time during the movie where Arnie shows any signs of being “crazy”. He is just a typical teenage boy who needs a little more help than others at times.
Last but not least, the last take away message from the movie is that all persons with disabilities constantly misbehave and need to be under constant 24 hour supervision. This is not true in any sense of the word. There any many independent individuals who have disabilities who have their own apartments, have jobs, pay their own bills, and do not need any help or supervision whatsoever. Just because Arnie needs to be watched closely so he does not get into trouble does not mean that every single individual with a disability needs to be supervised with a close eye at all times.
Every person and every disability is unique, and every person deals with their disability in a unique way. Some individuals with disabilities are able to go out and live completely independent lives, where others may need to live with a parent, caregiver, or roommate forever. It just depends solely on the individual. Likes, Dislikes, Changes In What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, there were a lot of things that were definitely likable about the movie. For one, the reality of the family and community setting where the movie took place.
Also, the acting of DiCaprio as Arnie who was a teenager with developmental disabilities was exceptionally realistic. In addition, the reactions that the people in the community had to Arnie and his sometimes impulsive and irrational behaviors were very similar to the reactions people would have to an individual with disabilities out in the community today. Another thing that was much desired about What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was the fact that it probably opened the eyes of many people who thought it was out of the ordinary for parents to keep their disabled child and care for them and not send them away and institutionalize them.
I believe that it made many people realize that it is normal for families to keep and care for their child whether it has a disability or not. Lastly, the movie also sent out a very positive and important message to viewers that could make many people feel more comfortable with people who care for individuals with disabilities, individuals with disabilities themselves, and giving the people who care for such individuals more credit for the hard work that they do.
Some of the dislikes in the movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape were the way the family and the community sometimes treated Arnie. Even though, that is the way it actually is at times, it is still unnecessary to treat anyone, disabled or not, disrespectfully and rudely. Throughout the movie, there were several scenarios where Arnie was treated with much disrespect. Although, that is how many individuals who are like Arnie are treated in today’s society, it is not acceptable and very terrible.
Another dislike of the movie was the part of the movie where Gilbert was so frustrated with everything in his life, and had all of his emotions built up and he took it all out on Arnie and he hit him. Although, everyone gets angry at times, it is never acceptable to hit someone else, especially someone like Arnie who is unable of properly defending themselves. It may have been a very honest and true situation to see a family member with a child or sibling with a disability struggle through; there are plenty of other ways that Gilbert could have effectively expressed his emotions without hitting Arnie.
He was under a lot of stress from the rest of his family, but that was no reason for him to take it out on Arnie, when it was his mother and other siblings that were causing all of his built up frustration and anger. Lastly, a dislike was very disheartening was the fact that whenever they went somewhere with Arnie, the people in the community would point, stare, or ask “what is wrong with him? ”. Although, most times in today’s society, children and even some adults will do the same things to individuals with disabilities; that is the most disrespectful thing you could ever do to a person.
It is a giant reality and it happens very, very often, but it tops the list of my dislike list in the movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Some of the changes that would have been ideal to the movie would to have been given the opportunity to see how Arnie performed and acted during school. It was very apparent how he acted outside of school and how he acted while around Gilbert and his other siblings, but it would have been interesting to see how he acted around his peers and other individuals who are like him.
Also, another change that would be idealistic would be to have his other sister’s more involved in his care. Amy and Ellen were always too busy to care for Arnie, so all of the responsibility was always dumped completely onto Gilbert. It would have been nice to see how differently Arnie would have acted, and if he would have behaved any different if he were to be with Amy or Ellen more often than he was throughout the movie.
At one point in the movie, Ellen was supposed to be watching Arnie and he ended up running towards the water tower and Ellen grabbed him and pulled him to the ground and was dragging him away from the water tower, while yelling at him and kicking him in public. Thankfully, Gilbert was there to intercede and stop Ellen from hurting Arnie anymore than she already had. It makes you wonder if Ellen showed more interest in Arnie if he would not have acted out while with her, and scenarios such as that would not have happened.
Back in 1993, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was a very controversial movie but portrayed a positive message to those families and individuals who did not understand disabilities and just how much work goes in to caring for individuals with disabilities. Many of those who did not understand before still may not completely understand and sadly, they may never. The movie does not do complete justice to all individuals with disabilities, because every individual and every disability is different and Arnie’s condition was a mild to moderate disability.
From working with individuals with disabilities for the past eight years, every stereotype you can imagine was cast upon them, and many people do not take into consideration that they are people just like themselves and they have feelings too. Many people believe that individuals with disabilities do not hear or understand what is being said about them, but you would be surprised how smart some individuals with disabilities can be. It is sad that many individuals with disabilities are hardly ever recognized for their good attributes, it always seem to be the bad one’s that outshine and catch people’s attention.