moviebuff801: Forrest Gump Review

Posted: February 17, 2013 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews, Time Capsule Reviews

Release Date: July 6th, 1994

Running Time: 2 hours and 21 minutes

Written by: Eric Roth

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Field, Gary Sinese, Mykelti Williamson

Sometimes a movie is just so charming, so endearing, so warm-hearted and innately likable, that any general lack of subtlety on its part is instantly forgivable when one considers it as a whole.  Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump is such a film.  And, I’m going to come right out and say it: I love the hell out of this movie.  It’s a film broad in its scope, yet simple and intimate at its core, the kind of story that most certainly has an emotional punch lying in wait, but one that gradually creeps up on you and doesn’t deliver its blow until the opportune moment.  It’s an absolutely wonderful and inspiring movie, as well as one of my All-Time Favorites.

Adapted from the 1986 novel of the same name, Forrest Gump is the life story of its title character (Tom Hanks), a man born with a low I.Q. and legs so weak, he was required to wear braces on them.  As you can imagine, Forrest is the type of “fresh meat” that the sharks of the schoolyard prey upon, and yet, his loving mother (Sally Field) constantly tells Forrest that “stupid is as stupid does.”  One day, young Forrest meets a sincere and kind-hearted little girl named Jenny, and their friendship will prove to be a strong and lasting one over the years.  As Forrest grows into an equally kind-hearted man, he finds himself wandering through many great experiences, such as fighting in the Vietnam War where he makes another friend named Bubba (Mykelti Williamson), captaining a successful Shrimp Boat with his former commanding officer, Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinese) and becoming a cultural sensation through his love for running.  But through all the incredible experiences and friends made, Forrest never loses sight of the one thing he’s cared about more than anything: Jenny (Robin Wright).  And he’s determined to lead her out of the life of mistakes she’s fallen into and guide her into a better one, which he knows she deserves.

Okay, let’s not waste any time dancing around what is truly the heart and soul of this movie: Tom Hanks and his incredibly excellent performance.  Seeing Hanks in this film, and the way he so naturally embodies this character, is one of the prime examples of why I consider him to be my favorite actor.  He plays Forrest so beautifully, so effortlessly, that within the first five minutes, he’s reeled us fully in.  Fortunately, it never feels as if Hanks is overplaying it or trying to be too sympathy-hungry in any way; he finds that thin line between the two and navigates it as carefully and as skillfully as a high-wire trapeze artist.  There’s just so much charm, naïvete and compassion and humor that Hanks brings to the role, that I simply just can’t see how anyone would not like this character.  Not for one minute throughout this film does our investment in Forrest ever falter, because Hanks never lets it.  I hesitate to call this his best performance, though, because there’s such a wealth of others that are as equally effective to choose from, but I will at least say that it’s one of them.

But Hanks’ performance, obviously, isn’t the only thing to praise about this film.  I briefly mentioned at the start of this review how I find this movie to be inspiring, and I wholeheartedly mean that.  In fact, for personal reasons I’d rather not go into here, I find Forrest Gump to be the most inspiring movie, and maybe even the most tragic at the same time, I’ve ever seen.  But I’ll touch on that tragedy in a bit.  What I’m getting at here first and foremost is the movie’s central theme, that even those who may be different in some ways from the majority of other people are just as capable of achieving great things as those others.  That just speaks volumes to me, as familiar and old a theme as it may be, because it’s handled in such a tender way by screenwriter Eric Roth and director Robert Zemeckis.  It doesn’t feel as if this idea is being explored in a mechanical and perfunctory way.  On the contrary, the film has a tremendous amount of heart behind it, specifically in how it handles said idea.  While it may set Forrest’s journey on the widest canvas possible, the film never loses sight of its driving forces, which are that relatable theme and the central relationship between Forrest and Jenny.

This brings me back to what I was getting at with the tragic comment.  The Forrest/Jenny relationship in this movie is perhaps the most beautiful and tragic romance I’ve ever seen put on film.  Getting back to Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Forrest, when put up beside Robin Wright’s fragile work as Jenny, it makes for something that I just find to be so heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.  Here’s why: throughout this movie, Forrest continually gets all these extraordinary opportunities and honors, and yet, he can never get the one thing he wants more than anything in the world, which is Jenny.  And when he finally does, she’s taken away from him all too soon, whether it’s due to Jenny’s unstable state of mind or forces beyond either of their control.  The image of Forrest blankly looking at Jenny’s empty bed at a key moment near the end of the Second Act is perhaps the saddest image in the entire film.

Now, if I wasn’t so invested in this relationship, then this wouldn’t have as strong of an effect, but I am every time and it does every time.  And the best part is that the Forrest/Jenny relationship never feels like a byproduct of Hollywood clichés; it feels tender, it feels difficult, but most of all, it feels real.  Due in large part to all of that, I can never make it through this movie without the final five to ten minutes turning me into a complete wreck.  It’s why I can’t watch that part of the film with anyone else.  As big and expansive as the story of Forrest Gump is, at the end of the day, it’s a heartfelt love story, one that’s told exceedingly well.  I’m sorry if I’m coming off as overly sentimental, but I can’t help it; I’m a hopeless romantic at heart.

Ever since I first saw it, Forrest Gump has, and always will, hold a special place in my heart.  It ranks #2 when I list out my Favorite Films of All-Time, and I assure you, it has earned that spot.

****/****

Comments
  1. le0pard13 says:

    Fine look at this Zemeckis classic, Daniel. It’s a good one, alright. But it wasn’t my pick for that year, as you’ll learn come tomorrow’s 90s post.

  2. Spikor says:

    I can’t remember the last time something actually made me *want* to watch Forrest Gump again. Great job. It’s on TV pretty much constantly, so I try to catch my own favourite part (the military arc) from time to time, but I haven’t had the urge to watch the whole thing in quite a while.

    The end has hit me pretty hard a few times as well, but that’s more due to the father-son moment, rather than Forrest’s great love for Jenny. I’ve never much cared for Jenny, and Forrest wasn’t ever able to convince me to. Of course, in many ways that just makes the movie as a whole work even better.

    • moviebuff801 says:

      Well, thank you very much. :)

      For me, what gets me about the ending is really a combination of Forrest talking to Jenny’s grave, and then seeing him interact with Forrest Jr. at the bus stop. So heartbreaking.

  3. barronlouise says:

    I thought this film was okay, i mean oscar worthy but not worthy of a best picture. great review tho.

  4. ianthecool says:

    I’m glad to hear more good words about this movie. I love how its a snapshot of American history in the last half century. You say it may lack subtlety, but it wasn’t going for subtlety and somehow still made it work.

    • moviebuff801 says:

      Well, let me be clear: I wasn’t criticizing it for its lack of subtlety, merely pointing out. I agree with you, though: the film didn’t NEED subtlety in order to work so well.

  5. S says:

    This movie works so well on so many levels, and it is at its’ heart a relationship movie that is character driven primarily as you so eloquently put it by Hanks (Tom and Jim I guess). Tom, Mykelti Williams(Bubba), Robin Wright (Jenny), Gary Sinise (Lt. Dan), and Sally Field (Mrs. Gump) are really at the top of their games. There’s the added bonus of seeing big events unfold through a character with an unyielding moral compass. Additionally, a champion runner emerging from a leg brace was the true story of 3-time US Olympic gold medalist in womens track for Wilma Rudolph in 1960. Rudolph had leg brace in her formative years, survived polio and scarlet fever and went on to be a world champion in track. Forrest Gump is a great film; super post.

    Forrest Gump: You know it’s funny what a young man recollects? ‘Cause I don’t remember bein’ born. I don’t recall what I got for my first Christmas and I don’t know when I went on my first outdoor picnic. But I do remember the first time I heard the sweetest voice in the wide world. [just prior to hearing Jenny]

  6. arena23 says:

    Great review, amazing blog!
    Check mine out – http://moviereviewsdirect.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/forrest-gump/
    Thanks a whole heap and happy blogging!! ;)

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