Movie Title: Forrest Gump
First Watch / Repeat Viewing
Running Time: 2 hr. 22 min.
Who did I watch with?: Stephie
Where did I watch it?: Home
This isn’t truly a first watch of Forrest Gump. In high school, I had a teacher that tried to teach large swaths of U.S. history with this movie. I’ve seen parts of this movie many times, so I’ve never felt compelled to watch the whole thing. I know it’s a classic, so it’s time to check it off the list.
Forrest Gump opens with Tom Hanks sitting on a bench telling an unwitting passerby his life story. He starts off with his childhood where we are quickly informed of Forrest’s low IQ, introduced to his best friend Jenny, and his affinity for running. These three aspects of Forrest’s character are the driving forces in his life. They help him attend college, they influence him to enlist in the army, save his life, and win him acclaim and wealth. His obsession with Jenny haunts him throughout his life as he pines for her throughout the film.
The supporting cast of characters including Forrest’s mother played by Sally Field, shrimp expert Benjamin Buford Blue (Mykelti Williamson) and Lieutenant Dan Taylor add tremendously to the movie. Aside from Jenny they shape Forrest’s life. In turn Forrest impacts all their lives for the better. As these relationships progress Forrest meditates on the meaning of it all. Is it destiny or is it blind happenstance? This theme comes up frequently throughout the movie. Nowhere is more clear than when Blue is wounded in Vietnam. Forrest clutches him in his arms as Blue simply wonders “Why did this happen?”Lieutenant Dan also suffers and goes on to suffer from serious post traumatic stress and nihilism following his discharge.
Along the way Forrest bears witness to many significant historical events including the integration of the University of Alabama, the attempted assassination of George Wallace, the assassination of the Kennedy’s, the Vietnam War, Ping Pong diplomacy, the rise of the counterculture, the Black Panthers, the moon landing, the opening of China, music history, Watergate, disco, and AIDS. Most are done well though there are moments that are certainly better executed than others.
In many ways this is a movie about values. Jenny is scarcely a character as most of her scenes are montages of failed ventures in her life. Jenny’s liberal values lead to her downfall. Forrest’s color blind conservatism (if only we could achieve this today) pulls him through life.
Jenny is also a victim of abuse and that abuse shapes her life. She is suicidal. She is a frequent victim of abuse by various men that she has relationships with. Ultimately, she becomes a hippie before watching the counter culture die and getting into disco. Alternatively, Forrest wins the Medal of Honor, starts a successful business, becomes wealthy, and takes care of all the people that helped him along the way.
With that considered, conservative characters take care of the liberal characters when they are in need and they are always in need. Efforts are made to make Forrest apolitical. For example, when the microphone is unplugged at the Vietnam War protest and his speech goes unheard.
I like the message that a supportive loving environment of Forrest’s home produces him despite his short comings while the destructive environment in Jenny’s produces her. I don’t necessarily agree with the moral message that seems to favor conservative values and portray everyone else terribly whether it was intended to be put there or not. I think it is a noteworthy flaw in the movie.
Forrest Gump is a movie with range. It is at turns heartfelt, political, funny, and informative. It is a classic. See it.
Tomorrow’s Movie: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)