Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump. Paramount Pictures 1994

Before watching the movie:

Why did I chose this movie? Because it’s definitely in the top ten of the Canon of Movies You Should See In This Era. At the same time, I really don’t know why it’s there.

Sure, I know a bunch of stuff about it already, like the early computer effects used to have the character interact with famous dead people, and he’s supposed to have a low IQ.

There’s also the memes that spread before we knew memes were memes, like “Run Forrest Run,” “Life is like a box of chocolates,” and the way Forrest says “Lieutenant Dan.”

But then, how can I avoid knowing about a movie that’s been parodied by The Simpsons and Weird Al? I even read a MAD Magazine parody of it… not that I got much of it at the time. I’ve even sat on what King’s Island claimed was the actual bench from the film.

I watch this movie because I want to know why everyone knows about this one and not Being There.

During/after watching the movie:

For those who don’t know, this movie is about Forrest, a man with an IQ of 75, telling his life story to random strangers at a bus stop. The first twenty minutes are his boyhood years,  which seems like a lot until you realize that the film is two hours and twenty minutes long. Through a combination of honesty, innocence, and luck, Forrest feels his way through life from being just barely able to be educated to successful entepreneurship, leaving his mark on history, but more importantly befriending people along the way, and especially exploring his love for his first friend Jenny.

Hanks’s performance may not be completely believable (then again, “never go full retard”), but it’s completely honest and solidly delivered. Whenever the story came back to his puppy dog love for Jenny (which it would leave for over half an hour at times), I would get uncomfortable. At times, it just seemed wrong. They protect each other until he grows up to the point he doesn’t need protecting anymore, and then he continues protecting her long after she doesn’t want protecting, even though she’s gone down a bad path. Although I understand their motivations in their friendship, they oddly still don’t make much sense.

The ways he leaves impacts history are obviously a big draw, and while I do enjoy stories that put unrelated events together, these feel superfluous. The occasional historical broadcasts anchor the story in time just as well, and are both less forced and less expensive. Sure, it’s fun to see Forrest tell Kennedy he needs to pee, moon Johnson, and tip off the Watergate break-in, but they just pause the story for a while to play with history, and take up huge portions of the budget.

The movie takes only one real flight of artistic fancy, and that is the feather that bookends the story. I would say it’s an apt unstated metaphor for Forrest’s life, and while I’m probably right, the way it’s open to interpretation, I can’t say for sure that I guessed right. As any good piece of literature, you are left to decide for yourself what it means.

See this movie: for the life-affirming message that being nice and trusting to people gets you everywhere.

Don’t see this movie: if you believe that stupid is as Forrest does.

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