Title: Forrest Gump
Release Date: 23 June, 1994
Oscar Ceremony: 27 March, 1995
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise
Nominees: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption
“My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump
Most people I know have very clearly defined ideas about Forrest Gump: they either love it or hate it. Seriously, they either quote it fanatically and marvel at what a wonderful film it is, or simply roll their eyes and scoff at its absurdity. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between, but if there was I think I might be a part of it.
The film’s main strength is its masterful storytelling and there’s no doubt that it reels you in right from the start. In 1981, a man named Forrest Gump sits on a bench in Savannah and starts telling his life story to the woman sitting next to him. He grew up in Greenbow, Alabama with a low IQ and braces on his legs. Thanks to a supportive mother and multiple spurts of luck, he ends up living an extremely fulfilling life. He also happens to somehow find himself at the center of some of America’s most significant historical events, which really makes for a packed narrative. However, his beloved childhood friend and sweetheart, Jenny Curran, doesn’t seem to have it so easy. They reunite several times throughout the film and their stories intertwine. In the end, it’s really the story of a simple-minded American, the people he meets along the way, and the impact he has on the world.
Forrest Gump can be considered a modern-day fable that promotes simplicity and the arbitrary nature of life. However, in order to fully enjoy it, you have to employ the mentality of its protagonist and watch it without really thinking. I have seen the movie a few times, but this time I had to think about it a bit more in depth in order to find something to write for the blog. I realized that it kind of implies that if you just go about life not having any idea what you’re doing, you’ll get everything handed to you on a silver platter. Forrest never really had to lift a finger. America has always promoted mediocrity, and since Forrest Gump is the ultimate American movie, it’s no different. Daisy Buchanan said it best in The Great Gatsby when referring to her daughter: “I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” On the same note, Forrest Gump successfully reminds us that ignorance is indeed bliss. I sometimes wish I was dumber.
Similarly to Rain Man, Forrest Gump allows audiences to sympathize with a mentally challenged character. However, unlike Rain Man, Forrest Gump focuses less on the nature of his personal relationships, and more on how he fits into a wider commentary on American culture and history. Throughout the film, Forrest unintentionally finds himself in the middle of some of the country’s most significant time periods. We get to see the world unfold through the eyes of a man who maintains his innocence and takes everything at face value. It’s quite a heartwarming feeling to discern everything in such an uncomplicated way, and there’s probably no better person to take us through it than Tom Hanks, aka America’s sweetheart. His natural charm makes it easy for audiences to immediately embrace the simple-minded hero he portrays without worrying too much about the accuracy of his depiction.
While Forrest Gump might not be one of my top favourites, I actually think it’s a really well-executed and memorable piece of entertainment. Sure it’s cheesy, but at least it doesn’t pretend not to be. You can tell that it’s crafted specifically to highlight its absurdity. No one actually believes that a guy named Forrest Gump inspired Elvis’ Hound Dog dance, became a world ping-pong champion or ended up a “gazillionaire” from a shrimp boating business and a successful investment. It works better if you choose to see it as more of an allegory. Sometimes, simplicity is key. The film’s most famous quote about life being like a box of chocolates suddenly rings very true: you never know what you’re gonna get or what is going to happen. Most of Forrest’s achievements are due to sheer dumb luck, but they still show us that your life can turn around when you least expect it. Perhaps it’s overly optimistic, but among all the cynicism in the world, a touch of optimism can’t hurt, and that’s probably why so many people cherish it.
In the end, I guess you could say that, just like life, Forrest Gump is also like a box of chocolates: while it might not be the best thing for you to eat, it sure tastes sweet. It tends to promote a lot of questionable values, but if you remember that it’s just a story, you’ll have a lot of fun, and you’ll certainly be talking about it for a long time.