FORREST GUMP // Chances are most people recognize the phrases “run, Forrest, run” or “life is like a box of chocolates” even if the film that they come from is a mystery to them. Having been seven-years-old when “Forrest Gump” came out, it was not a film I was familiar with until much later in life. But these phrases were often expelled during gym class when someone just was not running fast enough or said with the distinct stuttered Southern accent possessed by the leading man. Solidifying just how iconic the film is, these phrases not only marked one of the best performances of Tom Hanks’ career, but brought to life a film that encapsulated an era. Along with these phrases carrying on the legacy of “Forrest Gump”, a restaurant chain inspired by the film, named Bubba Gumps, and several Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay, puts it next to some of the greatest films in history.
The majestic thing about “Forrest Gump” is how it transcends genres, mixing romantic comedy elements with historical drama, relying heavily on its humor but always feeling like an Oscar worthy movie. Tom Hanks plays the title character, a mysterious, kind-hearted man sitting at a park bench, telling random strangers the story of his life. Starting as a young boy with braces on his legs from which the iconic phrase comes in, to Forrest growing up and enlisting in the military and eventually becoming famous several times over. Set alongside some of the most pivotal moments in American history, Zemeckis is not afraid to place his main character’s image in actual archival footage, creating an authenticity to the stories that Forrest tells, helping to claim the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects as well. Hanks gives himself over to the role, providing a charm to the simple minded man. Despite his best efforts, the character does come off a bit too goofy at times and, although most of the humor lands, there is still a sense of shame while laughing at such a mentally stunted character.
What does help keep the character of Forrest centered is the immensely talented supporting cast including Sally Field as Forrest’s mother, Robin Wright as his love interest, and Gary Sinise with a career highlight turn as Lieutenant Dan. Also grounding the goofiness of the film are several heavy topics like child abuse and death, and how this effects the characters development throughout different periods of their lives. Wright’s character, Jenny, is a victim of child abuse and the effects of this can be seen as she grows up to take part in self-destructive relationships. Forrest loses a friend in the Vietnam War and sets in motion most of the story for the rest of the film, involving working on a shrimp boat and starting the business that eventually spawns the real life restaurant chain. Because of this blend between comedy and real life events, with sincerity and depth in both the performances and the screenplay, “Forrest Gump” remains a benchmark in American cinema, having yet to be successfully recreated. And as the images of adult Forrest sitting on a bench with a box of chocolates or young Forrest running down a street kicking off his leg braces project this film into future generations, for those of you that have not seen the film have one thing in common, “you never know what you’re gonna get”.
[Directed by Robert Zemeckis] [PG-13] [142 min] [6 July 1994]