One of the most famous quotes in all of cinema comes from Forrest Gump when our dominant character saying, “My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Ain’t that the truth. This can apply to the film itself since you never know what will come through the titular role’s life in what I could describe as a journey anybody else that shows through courage and a big heart can happen.
What’s the Story: Based on Winston Groom’s 1986 novel, Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) has always been a slow-witted man (an IQ of 75) with a kind heart to his name. As he sits at a bus stop, he reminisces about his life in how he has truly been a part of the most important moments in history, from being a football star, fighting in Vietnam, and almost everything else with a lower intelligence while chasing after his longtime sweetheart Jenny (Robin Wright).
The first time I watched Forrest Gump was 10 years in eighth grade when I checked this out from the library since it was during a period where I was requesting movies I haven’t seen before, and this was one of them. I’ve always heard about it, but I watched it without knowing what it’s all about. And I was taken back by how delightful this turned out to be. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like Forrest Gump, what is wrong with you, and why don’t you have good taste in film. A film like this shouldn’t have been getting the stupid backlash it was getting a few years ago when it’s just an amazing comedy-drama all around. Saying a film is not great because it’s too sentimental is a dumb excuse, most of the time. You’re not acting popular when you hate one of the greatest movies to come out of the ‘90s.
Hanks in the title role has always been my favorite role of his, and I don’t care who thinks otherwise. He might not be the smartest person in the world, Forrest was just being himself without forcing his character to be a straight-up idiot, even if that means not taking a good photo. The best thing I can easily say about his performance is that he never went over-the-top or made a person like this offensive in any way; he truly made us feel like we’re watching a unique biopic about this person. How different would this be if Hanks didn’t star in the role and was played by John Travolta, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, the author’s choice of John Goodman? We would’ve gotten a totally different movie on our hands. For my money, he absolutely brought the funny and heart of why a character like Forrest Gump is beloved by everyone to the point of not seeing him as Hanks in its entire 142 minutes.
Robin Wright as Jenny, Forrest’s childhood sweetheart, also does a great job here, and she doesn’t age. The times I re-watch the film, I always find it hard to like her character for the first two acts since she’s always denying Forrest’s love for her. As the viewer, we aren’t supposed to be on her side. Her path differs completely from his after getting kicked out of school for posing for Playboy and roaming around the country, but you gain a sense of understanding when she had a tough childhood. They knew each other since they were little, as she offered him a seat on the bus and became the best of friends ever since. I love the chemistry they shared throughout. Someday, I hope to find someone to love the same way Forrest loves Jenny.
Then you also have the underrated Gary Sinise as Lieutenant Dan Taylor, the platoon leader during the Vietnam War. After the war, he lost both his legs. Sinise portrays a realistic approach to war veterans whose bitterness on life is affecting him and doesn’t feel like he shouldn’t be alive. He rightfully earned his Best Supporting Actor nomination. There was a quote I finally caught when Forrest told Lt. Dan he was going into the shrimp company, “If you’re ever a shrimp boat captain, that’s a day I’m an astronaut.” How funny is it that he and Hank would later co-star together in Apollo 13 a year later?
The rest of the supporting cast besides Wright and Sinise was also great with the time they had on screen, including Mykelti Williamson as Bubba Blue, who meets Forrest in the army and knows everything when it comes to shrimp; Sally Field, who worked with Hanks previously in the comedy Punchline, as Forrest’s mother who always wants him to be treated right, and it features the debut of a very young Haley Joel Osment as Forrest Jr. close to the end.
Around the time this came out, director Robert Zemeckis was at his prime with the success of the Back to the Future trilogy and Who Framed Roger Rabbit to back his career up, only to make a minor step back with Death Becomes Her. Forrest Gump proves why he’s always a filmmaker to look out for in making a film that’s easy to escape from reality whenever it’s on. Combined with Eric Roth (Munich, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)’s adaptation of the novel made it feel like we were watching a real-life person on this incredible journey through his life. How the movie differs from the book, I don’t know. Everything is told through flashbacks and narration, which never seems dull and had the same effect as listening to an audiobook come to life, which is a compliment in my book.
What I’ll always give major credits to him and Roth is that they could perfectly make us care about Forrest all the way through. Since he’s undeniably likable, it’s easy for us to feel for him wherever his journey takes in. Who else would risk his life to go back to save everyone when searching for Bubba? Only Forrest. Seeing him being a part of some of the most important moments in history was unbelievable. And that’s a large part because of the amazing visual effects that still hold up to this day. The reason it was described as a game-changer back then is that the team at Industrial Light & Magic used archival footage and inserting Hanks into the scenes, making it seem like he’s interacting with John F. Kennedy when receiving the Medal of Honor, John Lennon, Richard Nixon. Other interesting occurrences was when he meets Elvis Presley and his iconic moves were inspired by Forrest when he had his leg braces, or when he’s the one who exposed the Watergate scandal right after meeting Nixon. I also have to mention the effects used for Sinise’s missing legs, as it was seamless just looking at them. For the longest time, I just thought it was all makeup, but Sinise wore what looks like long, blue socks to make it work in the final product.
Did I mention this was funny? Because it was, in a surprising way. When Forrest got a scholarship to play football at the University of Alabama, he kept running past the goal because someone told him to run when handed the ball. Another moment was when Forrest told JFK he had to pee after drinking 15 bottles of Dr. Pepper. I wish I was drinking one while re-watching this. But this doesn’t forget the heart that doesn’t feel like it’s emotionally hollow as some will think. Honestly, I almost teared up near the end of the movie, and that’s really because of the emotions Hanks was giving.
And the soundtrack hooks you when you realize that they fit the respective periods fittingly. When Forrest is serving his time in Vietnam, it doesn’t come as a surprise when “Fortunate Son” or “For What It’s Worth” plays, as they are the prime song choices played during the war. One of my all-time favorite songs, “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, was placed when Jenny was a junkie and was about to commit suicide. And I’m not a huge fan of The Doors, but “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” playing for a brief moment is well placed. Seriously, talk about a blast from the past soundtrack. Alan Silvestri’s score is wonderful, especially during the opening credits.
A significant question that’s discussed in this makes you ponder after it’s over: What is our destiny in life? Someone like Forrest can make a difference in the world with his high optimism, despite the certain characteristics he was born with. Throughout his life, he joins the army after graduating from college when someone handled him a pamphlet, ran across the country for three years for no particular reason (three years, two months, fourteen days, and sixteen hours), speaking at the “March on the Pentagon” peace rally, or starting his own shrimp company. We are seeing all of this through the perspective of a simple man, just wishing for something like that to happen to any of us, maybe not fight in the war. Life takes us in many directions, and it’s basically up to us to figure it out for ourselves when we are given the chance. Meeting someone willing to inspire people’s lives is always great to see those who spend life the best way they can and those with not the smartest of mind that make a tremendous impact on the world. Still, I don’t know what I’m destined for, which makes me worried about myself.
Since this came out in 1994, there were a ton of brilliant movies that also came out 26 years ago, which includes this, The Lion King, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption. The biggest thing this drama truly accomplished was scoring big at the 67th Academy Awards. Nominated for 13 Oscars and won six: Best Picture, Best Director for Zemeckis, Hanks winning his second consecutive Best Actor Oscar after Philadelphia, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Visual Effects. Yes, this beat out slightly better reviewed films, but out of all the Best Picture winners of the decade, we needed a feel-good experience to stay inside our minds. There’s also a restaurant called Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. that’s I recall seeing at Universal Studios in Florida and in Las Vegas. Never been inside, but I will when the time is right.
Forrest Gump is entertaining bliss, gracefully blending comedy and drama to its full advantage. Because of Hank’s performance and give us a glimpse into what America was like through the eyes of its lead character, Zemeckis crafted together a beautiful and timeless romp that’s unforgettable. Both of them worked so well together the first time around that they teamed up again six years later with the equally impressive Cast Away. If you never watched this, please seek this out wherever it’s available.
Overall Grade: A-