In small-town Endora, young Gilbert Grape (Depp) is the de facto household head, caring for his mentally challenged brother Arnie (DiCaprio), endlessly mortified teen sister, Ellen (Schellhardt), and 500-lb. widowed mother (Cates), who hasn't left the house since Gilbert's dad hanged himself. Gilbert constantly negotiates a flurry of demands without fail, but when a well-traveled gal named Becky (Lewis) rolls into town with her grandmother, Gilbert gets his first taste of freedom.
Adapted by Peter Hedges from his novel, Hallstrom's endearing, offbeat drama features soulful heartthrob Depp as a fatherless young man with lots of worries and little time for his own happiness. Oscar nominee DiCaprio gives a remarkably tender performance as Arnie, a mentally challenged kid who's difficult to deal with but impossible not to love. Hallstrom develops the quirkier aspects of Hedges's story — including Gilbert's involvement with a lonely wife and a worldly newcomer — with a light comic touch. Excellent support from Lewis, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, and non-actress Cates kicks things up a notch. Beneath its unusual skin, this "Grape" is really quite sweet.