Rating: 8.5 out of 10
One of the most widely quoted movies, not to mention one of the most famous. Who knew that one man could manage to pop up in pretty much all of the momentous occasions in the second half of the 20th Century, seemingly without aging a day. At the same time, he manages to win a clutch of awards, including 6 Oscars, 3 Golden Globes and 1 BAFTA.
Forrest Gump, played marvellously by Tom Hanks, is named after a civil war hero and grows up in Greenbow, Alabama, where his mother runs a boarding house. Although Forrest is a little "slow", with an IQ 3 points below normal, this doesn't seem to bother him, his mother, or his best friend, Jenny Curran. Forrest constantly reminds us, for no particular reasons, that “stupid is as stupid does”. His naïve nature that comes from his intelligence, or lack of, gifts Forrest a uniquely positive perspective on life.
Across the span of the next thirty years, Forrest stumbles into becoming a star football player, a war hero, a successful businessman, and a pop icon, as well as meeting 3 presidents and teaching Elvis how to dance. Forrest doesn’t really care for any of this though, he is more concerned with his lifelong sweetheart Jenny, always wondering where she is and what she is doing.
A trio of assets lifts Forrest Gump above the average "life story": its optimism, freshness, and emotional honesty. Though the movie does not seek to reduce every member of the audience to tears, it has moments whose power comes from their simplicity. Equally as important is laughter, and Forrest Gump has moments of humour strewn throughout.
During the 60s and 70s, no topic more inflamed the turbulent national consciousness than that of Vietnam and those who were sent overseas to fight. Forrest, as might be expected, has a singular viewpoint on his time spent there: "We took long walks and were always looking for this guy named Charlie." This observation emphasizes the essence of the title character's nature.
Through the miracle of visual effects, Forrest meets his fair share of famous people - George Wallace, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and John Lennon. While mixing the real footage of these notables with new images featuring Hanks is not a seamless process, the result is nevertheless effective.
Forrest Gump has several messages, few of which require much digging into the subtext to unearth. The most frequently recurring theme is an admonition not to give up on life. Why surrender when you don't know what lies ahead? By contrasting Forrest's life with the lives of those around him, and by showing how the passage of time brings solace to even the most embittered hearts, the movie underlines this point.
Tom Hanks won 1994's Academy Award for Philadelphia, but his performance here is more nuanced. [With Forrest Gump, he would become only the second man to win back-to-back Lead Actor Oscars, joining Spencer Tracy.] The Alabama accent may seem a little awkward at first, but it doesn't take long for the acting to dwarf the twang. Hanks fashions a human character free of guile and deceit, and barely able to comprehend a concept like evil. Robin Wright gives the best performance of her career, surpassing what she accomplished in The Playboys. Looking and seeming like a younger Jessica Lange, she is believable as the object of Forrest's undying affection. The scene-stealer, however, is Gary Sinise. A renowned stage director and actor, Sinise is probably best known to film-goers (to the extent that he is known at all) for his portrayal of George in 1992's Of Mice and Men (which he also directed). In this movie, his portrayal of Lieutenant Dan Taylor is riveting. The passion and pain he brings to the middle portions of Forrest Gump hold together some of the film's weaker moments.
Ultimately, however, any such gripes about Forrest Gump are minor. This is a marvellous motion picture -- a mint julep on a hot summer's afternoon.
Credit to James Berardinelli