Review: Forrest Gump (1994)

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All things considered Forrest lived a heck of a life, and by stating that I just became Captain Obvious!

Screenplay By: Eric Roth
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

I’ve never understood the criticism’s levied against Forrest Gump, it isn’t promoting the message that stupidity is somehow redemption nor does it handle the character of Jenny with kids gloves. Forrest is stupid because he is stupid and because that allows him to be an impartial observer to the American history taking place around him. Jenny is put through the ringer, she is offered no sympathy from the screenplay or from Robert Zemeckis, at every turn she is painted as a misguided and ultimately destructive individual. She does get some small redemption at the end, but it’s important to note that just like every other character her redemption is tied into Forrest. Jenny serves as the representative of the audience in a way, she accepts Forrest from the start, but she won’t completely buy into him and she is only happy in those few moments when she does fully buy into Forrest and accept him wholesale.

Stupid is as stupid does may not be something you want to hear, but in Forrest Gump that also translates into magical will happen as magical will happen. Roger Ebert called Forrest Gump a magical movie, and there’s no way for me to improve upon that spot on analysis. I’ve talked in the past of movies that you either go along with for the ride or you decide it isn’t for you and check yourself off after a few turns. Forrest Gump is that type of movie, the ride it wants to take you on is a magical one, and it is way out there, but if you are willing to stay on for the whole ride you will be treated to a wonderful and engaging story.

You can look at Forrest Gump as the simple story of a simple man, that’s how I often tend to look at the movie. Some stories want to be more than they are, I believe Forrest Gump does as well, but often those stories present all you need with their surface story. The adventures of Forrest, the struggles of Lieutenant Dan and the downward spiral of Jenny are intriguing without any subtext added to them. I have a blast doing nothing more than watching this world unfold, I don’t need any deeper meaning or greater purpose behind it all and that is often the sign of the greatest stories.

If you happen to dig a little deeper Forrest Gump does have a subtext to it, it is the story of America. Forrest is the silent observer of American history and we are there for the ride, he suffers hardships but his are purely on a personal level. Through his friends we get to see the events, both small and large, that shaped America into the country it is today. There’s nothing wrong with a slice of good old fashioned Americana, there’s nothing wrong with taking an interest in your own history. Forrest Gump doesn’t take a jingoistic slant, it doesn’t clean up our history, it presents America for all to see, warts and all. It is sentimental and schmaltzy from time to time, but as I often say when done right there is nothing wrong with a movie becoming sentimental or schmaltzy.

There are two elements of Forrest Gump that are essential to its success yet I find myself without much to say about them because they are so obviously perfect. What can I say about the effects that the film itself doesn’t say? No matter how many times I watch Forrest Gump I never once realize that the historical scenes are effects shots with Forrest digitally added in, that’s how well done they are. The same holds true of the acting, when every performance is pitch perfect, what am I supposed to write about the acting? Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Robin Wright (maybe it’s Penn this week, who knows), any actor you want to name fully inhabits their character and a single beat is never missed.

Over the years for one reason or another people have begun to turn against Forrest Gump, taking it out of classic status and into more of an overrated status. I don’t understand that, doubt I ever will. This is probably the ninth or tenth time I’ve seen Forrest Gump and every time it remains utter brilliance in my eyes. Every once in a while you need to go on a magical ride that is full of sweetness, innocence and a bunch of historical significance. Allow the magic of Forrest Gump to wash over you like I did, it’s a movie that is well worth the immersion.

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill

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7 responses to “Review: Forrest Gump (1994)

  1. man, i reckon youve opened a can containing lots of wriggly things on this one, its one of the great Dividing Movies, up there with Tommy Boy in that respect. i quite like Forrest Gump, its good fun. but then i like Tommy Boy too

  2. I like Tommy Boy as well, and I’ve never understood why this is such a divisive film. It’s flat out great in my book.

  3. Forrest Gump is one fo my favourite films of all time. It’s just beautiful and so simple which is exactly what makes it perfect. I’ve only ever come across one person who told em they didn’t like it, and they were swiftly escorted out of my house.

  4. Everybody loves this film, and how can you not??? Everything is great about this film, and it was one of the better films of the year that was 1994. And needless to say the 90’s.

  5. Katie – I don’t think I’ve ever gone that far, but I’ve been lucky enough that most people I know like the film at the very least.

    Rok – 1994 was actually a pretty great year for film. That’s why as great as Gump is, it doesn’t crack my top 5 for 1994.

  6. I believe everyone has a right to their opinion about films or other topics. However from a lot of the

    comments I have read about this film, I do not think many got the gist of the message from the author and the

    film maker. This film is a great modern fable, a fable in the dictionary is defined as a brief fictitious

    story that teaches a moral. There are many morals defined in this film but foremost is integrity and a simple

    goodness.

    I have a half brother who grew up in the Southern U.S. and on one occasion we were discussing this film and

    he said he felt it portrayed Southerners as dimwitted. I disagreed with him and informed him that the author

    himself was a native Southerner. The setting is central to this story in that it lets the tale unfold tying

    in factual events with the fable before us.

    The film is wonderfully directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film is his opus and is acted by a great cast on all

    levels. From the children who were Forrest Gump and Gump Jr. by Haley Joel Osment. Say what you want but I

    feel Tom Hanks deserved the Oscar award. Gary Sinise is synonymous with Lt.Dan whenever you hear those words.

    Sally Fields is the loving dutiful mother in her challenging situation. Mykelti Williamson as Bubba gives you

    a real sense in the story that Gump had a genuine friend, he moves you with his character. Words don’t grasp

    the full performance of Robin Wright Penn as Jenny. Jennys’ tenderness and pain are palpable as exhibited by

    Wright.

    I feel that much of Gumps’ appeal is his downright sense of doing the right thing regardless of the people

    and situations around him and we see that in this film. That being the case maybe we all wish we could be

    just a little more like that, trying to maintain innate goodness and not the trade-offs we often make as we

    go down lifes highways.

    The movie has it all too,drama,comedy and it challenges societal norms as well. Then there are the almost

    endless quotes from the movie that have slipped into everyday speech. They are too numerous to say at this

    point.One of the toppers for me in the movie is when Forrest is in a quandary about life and wondering as

    Lt.Dan said we all have a destiny and his Mom says it is where we are all just floating around like a feather

    in the wind. Forrest’s character terms it very well with this quote,”I think it is a little bit of both.”

    From my experiences in life it does appear to be that way. So if you have not seen the movie,see it soon you

    are in for a real treat. If you did not like it, give it a try again and hopefully you will see it for the

    great story it is!

    More about the movie and Tom Hanks you can also find it here

    http://movieinfodb.com/en/people/31/Tom+Hanks

  7. I don’t really like the “people didn’t get the message” argument. Perhaps you read the film differently or came away with a different interpretation, one which you are entitled to, but there’s really no message to get wrong in the subjective medium of film.

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