Movie #60: Forrest Gump (1994)

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Forrest Gump tells the story of  a man as he lives his life from the mid 1950s to early 80s., intersecting with many major historical and cultural events and figures in the process.  Forrest (Tom Hanks) has an IQ of 75, and as such explains things and sees the world for a very simplistic, child-like viewpoint.  He tells his life story to various strangers as he sits on a bench waiting for a bus.  He’s in Savannah, Georgia to visit his lifelong sweetheart Jenny, a woman whose life has taken a much different path.

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This movie is probably one of my all-time favorites.  It’s one that I grew up with, and it’s one that I don’t think will ever get old.  I chose to watch Forrest Gump now because my wife and I vacationed in Colorado a short while ago, and during the trip we visited the Bubble Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant.  The food was a little overpriced and the service was horrible, but I can say I’ve eaten there so that’s that.  Our server quizzed my wife and I on the movie.  After I’d answered virtually every question correctly, she went back to get more difficult ones to try to stump me.  Out of 20-25 questions asked, I think I only missed 3 or 4.  I also learned that my wife had never seen the movie.  She has now.

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Hanks does a great job of capturing a child-like innocence of Forrest’s character.  He explains many things in simple terms.  He shows this throughout the film, even closing his eyes really tight when he thinks about his first pair of shoes, and we see his eyes closed tight as a boy in the doctor’s office where he’s gotten braces on his legs.  When Jenny visits him at night when they are children, he says, “Scared of what? I don’t know.  Maybe it was her grandma’s big ole dog.  He was a mean dog.”

Little tweaks like adding that the dog was mean is both simple and brilliant at the same time.  Forrest is also well-aware of him limitations and I found the scene where he proposes to Jenny to be touching and sad.

I didn’t realize Robin Wright played Jenny.  I’ve seen a lot more of her recent stuff, and this was a nice contrast to those roles.  She does a great job of portraying a troubled girl who spirals out of control after growing up with a sexually abusive father.  As she embraces the hippie/drug movement of the 60s and 70s, it makes sense that her character would contract AIDS.  She knows that Forrest loves her, but doesn’t want to embrace it because of her own self-hatred.  It is truly tragic, I just hate seeing

Gary Sinise also does great at Lt. Dan Taylor.  Going from a man of great hate because he feels he didn’t fulfill his destiny in Vietnam and ultimately finds redemption and purpose working with Forrest on the shrimp boat is no small task.  Sinise and Hanks would co-star in Apollo 13 the following year, and they have good on-screen chemistry in both films.  Sinise earned an Oscar nomination for his role in Forrest Gump, and definitely deserved it.

Mykelti Williamson does a good job as Forrest’s army friend Bubba.

I’m not normally a Sally Field fan.  I can’t really explain it, but I just haven’t been all that crazy about her in anything she’s been in.  This film is different though.  Her maternal instincts and adapting to Forrest’s intellectual limitations is touching.  She provides a lot of the heart of the film.

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There are so many good things about this film.  There’s a touching love story between Forrest and Jenny as they cross paths through the years.  Each time you hope she stays, and it doesn’t make any sense for her to leave, but she still does.  There’s a good portrayal of how this affects Forrest throughout the film.

Forrest’s relationship with Bubba and Lt. Dan are also interesting as they develop through the film, though this is more with Lt. Dan for obvious reasons.  Something nice about covering so much time is to see how each character changes over the years.  Field’s character gets older, and both Dan and Jenny change a lot throughout the film.

The soundtrack and cinematography throughout are great.  I know it was probably a great challenge incorporating a lot of archive footage of the various historical figures Forrest encounters.  In fact, Dick Cavett played himself in the scene where Forrest goes on The Tonight Show along with John Lennon.

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Forrest Gump is a film that doesn’t get old for me.  I don’t watch it often, but always find it enjoyable nonetheless.  In a documentary that came with the DVD, Hanks says that Forrest Gump is a film that shouldn’t have been successful by conventional standards.  Forrest doesn’t have a major transformation and the story is more or less his life.  Still, the film was one of the highest-grossing films at the time of its release, it won Best Picture and Hanks a Best Actor Oscar.  This is also ranked #76 on the AFI Top 100 10th Anniversary list.

Even though I’ve seen this movie numerous times, it’s still tough to see Jenny die and I always get a little choked up at the end when Forrest is talking to her grave.

This is a film I’ll definitely watch, and enjoy, again and again.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

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