Friday, November 11, 2016

Character Analysis: Arnie Grape

Character Analysis: Arnie Grape

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Is there any actor in Hollywood who is more respected, more famous, and more praised than Leonardo DiCaprio? ...Well maybe Daniel Day-Lewis, but Leo is also a Silver Screen treasure.  No matter what film you’ve seen him in, he is guaranteed to give you an Award Winning Performance.  So I thought it would be a good idea to write do an Analysis on one of Leo’s roles, and asked my friends what they thought.  My only stipulation is it had to be a fictional character that he played, so no Howard Hughes, or Frank Abagnale, or J. Edgar Hoover, or Hugh Glass, but pretty much any other character was fair game, and the people have spoken and they have requested that I do an analysis on Arnie Grape from the Indie classic “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

CHARACTER: Arnie Grape from “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (1993)

Arnie Grape
Arnie Grape is a 17-year-old boy with Intellectual Disabilities who lives in the small town of Endora, Iowa.  When he was a baby the doctors said he would not live past the age of 10 (presumably because of his condition).  Arnie lives with his Momma, his older brother Gilbert, his older sister Amy, and his younger sister, Ellen.  It is mentioned by Arnie’s brother Gilbert that they also had a brother named Larry, but it is never really specified what happened to him, he is just referred to as “gone”.  When Arnie was 1-years-old his father, Albert, hung himself in the basement of their house.  Arnie is very affectionate towards his mother and his older brother Gilbert                     Arnie’s mother loves him dearly, but due to her morbid obesity and limited mobility cannot really provide Arnie and his siblings.  Arnie’s older brother Gilbert has the sole job of watching out for him.  Wherever Gilbert goes, Arnie comes with him.  Arnie spends most of his days hanging out at Lamson’s Grocery store, where his brother Gilbert works as a stock/delivery boy.                                                Although he is intellectually disabled, Arnie is known to get himself in trouble.  On more than one occasion the police have been called because Arnie has climbed up the town’s water tower and refuse’s to come down.  Arnie eventually gets arrested for climbing the water tower after the Sheriff gets fed up.  He is placed in a holding cell until his mother comes down and demands that the Sheriff release her son.                    


Actor Leonardo DiCaprio plays Arnie Grape
Arnie is played by actor Leonardo DiCaprio.  The role of Arnie in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” was only the fourth movie role DiCaprio ever played, and it is said that he was offered the role of Thackery Binx in the Disney film “Hocus Pocus”, so that he could take on the role of Arnie in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”.  It is no easy feat for any actor to play a character who has intellectual disabilities, especially for an actor as young as DiCaprio was at the time (he was only 19-years-old when he played the role of Arnie), but DiCaprio did a fantastic job, and the critics took notice.  For his role of Arnie, DiCaprio earned his first Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actor (but he would unfortunately lose to Tommy Lee Jones for “The Fugitive”.


In order to get in character for his role, DiCaprio spent a few days at a home for Mentally Disabled Teens, talking to them and observing their mannerisms. That’s really all the information I could find about what DiCaprio did to research the role.  And just like all people with Intellectual Disabilities DiCaprio’s role of Arnie is unlike any other film character with Intellectual Disabilities so it’s not possible for me to make a fair or accurate comparison. 



     Arnie’s mother dies after his 18th birthday party.  In order to spare their recently deceased mother more embarrassment and ridicule the family decides to burn down their house with their mothers corpse still inside.  The next time we see Arnie his waiting by the roadside with his older brother Gilbert, one year later.  Their friend Becky (who Gilbert began a romantic relationship with) has arrived with her grandmother for their annual trip and the two of them have decided to join them on their cross country journey.

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