Dir; Robert Zemeckis. Starring; Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinese. PG-13. Color. 142 min.
In film history, 1994 was one of the most stacked years of classics you can think of. “Pulp Fiction”, “The Shawshank Redemption”, “Three Colors Trilogy: Red”, “The Lion King” and “Quiz Show” to name a few. What toppled all of those masterpieces at the Oscars was a movie you may have heard of called “Forrest Gump”. After years of reflection, many serious critics and film circles have been critical and denounced “Gump” as cheesy stuff. The film has been ignored on major lists like AFI or Sight and Sound. It wasn’t the best movie of 1994 and should not have won best picture is what they say. Hard for me to disagree with any pick you have with the other films I just mentioned for best of the year. When making a greatest of all time list two or three of those other pieces would probably rank higher. But that does not take away from the fact that “Forrest Gump” is a great movie. Allow me tell you why.
We shall start with the basic plot. You will sense a pattern of humanity and hope.
Tom Hanks plays Forrest. He is, to put it lightly, not the smartest guy in the world. We find him at a bus stop as he slowly recounts his life story to various strangers. “Momma always said, life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get,” is what he tells the first woman he meets.
Forrest grew up in Greenville, Alabama in the 1950’s. He was put into a crude type of crutch structure to help his back and legs. Forrest becomes a town freak, but his mother (Sally Field), believes in him. Forrest gets on a bus for his first day of school. None of the children will let him sit next to them. He then meets a young girl named Jenny who says “you can sit here if you want”. A childhood friendship is born.
With his leg braces and being “stupid”, Forrest is picked on at school. As he is walking home with his new friend several bullies start throwing rocks at him. Jenny yells the famous line “Run Forrest, Run!”. He breaks free from his braces and miraculously out runs the a-holes. Cut to years later and Gump is still getting picked on in high school. With a truck full of buffoons chasing him, Forrest stumbles upon the University of Alabama football field and flies past every player. The head coach is stunned. Forrest is recruited and joins the ‘Bama team, ending up an all-american and gets to meet president John F. Kennedy. The scene of him staring off to the sidelines zoned out and a teammate hands him the ball and says “Run Forrest!” then he says ok and swoops past everyone and runs over band members straight into the locker room is priceless.
We move to the Vietnam war. Forrest joins the army and meets his new best friend Bubba (Mykelti Williamson). Bubba is equally challenged intelligence wise, but they have a bond. The soldiers make an agreement that if they survive the war they will start a shrimping boat business. They arrive in Vietnam and in comes Lt. Dan (Gary Sinese). A paranoid S.O.B., Dan is constantly worried when his platoon goes out on assignment. Perhaps my favorite unsung quote ever comes from Hank’s narration as he recounts on fellow soldiers’ names when the unit is ordered to get down and shut up; “Well there was Dallas. He was from Houston. There was Cleveland. He was from Detroit. Then there was Tex. He was from…actually I’m not sure where Tex was from?”
Meanwhile there is Jenny (Robin Wright). She is knee deep in the 60’s/70’s counter culture movement and traveling all around the country. Troubled by her past with an alcoholic abusive father, Jenny has become a drug addict and frequently sleeps around. She has fierce hatred towards the world, but none of this behavior makes her a bad person. She is simply lost.
During an intense battle sequence in Vietnam, Bubba dies, Lt. Dan loses his legs, and Gump is awarded the medal of honor for saving several members of his platoon. Forrest then has a brief stint as a champion ping pong player after that incident (yes I know, sounds weird in any other film). After traveling to China, Gump follows up on his promise with Bubba to create their Bubba Gump Shrimp business. A crippled Lt. Dan shows up out of the blue and joins him as the ships first mate. A thundering storm takes place and Forrest’s boat, the “Jenny”, is the only one to come out intact. Money and shrimp are now a plenty going forward.
Forrest’s life long love is Jenny. She comes a knocking after he has made his shrimping fortune and his mother has died to stay with Forrest. But this is not played out in a bad way. She is not there for the money. Again, Gump is not the smartest guy in the world. Jenny is also not the most even keel person. “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is,” is what he tells Jenny after asking her to marry him and she turns him down. Forrest and Jenny finally sleep together, then she runs away from him the next morning because she is afraid that an unintelligent person might be the only man in the world who is truly all in and loves every part of her.
Then there is a happy ending, well kind of, which is why Forrest was sitting at the bus stop in the first place.
When everything comes to fruition with this story, there are so many people who were blessed to have ever met Forrest Gump. Jenny realizes that Forrest is the kindest man she has ever met, even if she comes to that conclusion a little too late. Lt. Dan lets go of his anger and comes to terms with his situation, thanking Forrest for saving his life. Bubba’s mother, a life long housekeeper, has her world changed when Forrest delivers her a big fat check from the shrimping business that was a 50-50 agreement between him and Bubba from the start. All of the fun historical cultural references Forrest goes through are great as well. My favorite is when Forrest gets a letter from Lt. Dan saying he invested money from the BubbaGump Shrimp Co. into some fruit company called “Apple”.
It is always exciting to run into a celebrity you admire and freak out when you get their autograph for two seconds then never see them again. Forrest got to meet Elvis, JFK, John Lennon, Lyndon Johnson, and was part of the integration of african-american students in Alabama schools. He shrugs it off as just another day. The important thing is that, whether he knew what he was doing or not, he changed peoples lives for the better.
Grand-scale themes are what make “Forrest Gump” a classic. Can you crawl out of a hole in life when you’re dealt a bad hand? Is it possible to stick to your morals despite people telling you that you’re a piece of trash? Most importantly, can you love something or someone for years beyond what was planned? Sometimes it takes a “stupid” person like Forrest, Forrest Gump, to show you what really matters in life.
Suck Factor: 0 out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!