ARNIE KNOWS A SECRET. HIS BIG BROTHER GILBERT IS THE GREATEST PERSON ON THE PLANET.
A prisoner of his dysfunctional family’s broken dreams in tiny Endora Iowa, Gilbert (Johnny Depp) serves as breadwinner and caretaker for his mother and siblings following his father’s suicide and his older brother’s defection. Momma (Darlene Cates) is a morbidly obese shut-in who hasn’t left the house in seven years; her children include Gilbert, retarded Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who’s about to turn 18, Ellen and Amy.
When Gilbert’s not taking care of the difficult but tender Arnie, he spends his time fixing up the family’s tattered farmhouse, working at a failing mom-and-pop grocery store and hanging with local misfits. Into this complicated scenario steps Becky (Juliette Lewis), a thoughtful young woman who’s been escorting her nomadic grandmother from state to state in a mobile-home caravan. As Becky teaches Gilbert to finally consider his own happiness for a change, she disrupts both his family obligations and his long-running affair with a lonely housewife (Mary Steenburgen).
Adapted by Peter Hedges from his own novel of the same name.
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