Forrest GumpAFI Rank: #71
Year Released: 1994
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Actors: Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise
In a world where so many movies are cookie-cutter, Forrest Gump stands out about having a very distinct storyline that is rarely found elsewhere. Most movies are about the bravest, the strongest, and the most beautiful / handsome as they plow through their lives. In Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks is instead a man who has many challenges in life. His legs won't work properly. He is not smart enough to be allowed in a traditional school. But through the perseverence of his loving, single mother, he gets the foundation in life, the moral strength, and the perseverence to thrive.
Forrest absolutely does not have an "easy life". His mother was abandoned by her husband and runs a boarding house. She pours all her love and dedication into raising her son to be able to take care of himself and to be content. She sleeps with the school's principle when he tells her that Forrest can't go to school. She tells Forrest repeatedly that he is just as good as anyone else, and that life is unpredictable and that that is normal. The line in the movie is: "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." It's become so popular that it is now almost cliche. It's important to remember that it GOT popular because so many people relate to its meaning. You might like the flavor of a chocolate, or dislike it, but it's all part of life, and you go on and have another one.
Hanks shines in this, as does Sinise, and both are well deserving of the many awards they won. Forrest is not one dimensional. Yes, he is not a genius. But he is still a complex character. When Jenny turns down his marriage proposal, he stares at her for a moment, then tells her, "I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is." With the conviction in his voice, and the emotion in his face, you know absolutely that he does.
Some of the movie is a bit heavy-handed. The repeated insertions of Gump into seemingly every single important moment in American history - including teaching Elvis how to dance, meeting with multiple presidents, and so on, can seem a bit much. He invented the smiley face. He happened to invest in Apple. The music soundtrack suffers from this "club on the head" issue. When Jenny leaves an abusive boyfriend, the sountrack sings "don't you love her madly as she's walking out the door" just as she does.
But then there are moments when I am powerfully affected, every time I see this movie. When Jenny was little, her father abused her. Forrest doesn't quite understand this, but later in life when they're both adults they return to her childhood home. Jenny starts throwing rocks at the house, furious at what her father had done, and then collapses. Forrest feels her pain, and says, "Sometimes, I guess there just aren't enough rocks". He knows exactly what she's going through, inside, and gets to the core of the emotion.
It is a bit sad that, even though the two most important people in his life are his mother and Jenny, the two never interact at all. And those two women never seem to interact with any other women. So this movie is all about Forrest, all his male friends, and then the men around his mother and Jenny. So we have an entire movie full of men and then "the mom" and "the love". I would have appreciated greatly a more rich world.
But, still, this is a problem with just about every movie, so it's hard to fault Forrest Gump too much for this flaw. And the movie does embrace a wealth of issues. Dan deals with life with no lower legs. Forrest deals with his mental challenges. Jenny is a survivor of child abuse. Forrest's mom struggles as a poor single mom. Together they all make it through their challenges.
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