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.