Growing up, everyone knew someone who was regarded as a bit of a simpleton. His heart was in the right place, but he lacked the inherent brains to intelligently verbalize his feelings or relate with others. Whether you were a bully, a friend, or apathetic toward this individual, his moronic charm reached to your very core. For me, it was a kid named James Schwarzenbach who listened to the Toy Story soundtrack on his walkman and thought the word “pistachio” was profane, but that’s beside the point.
Forrest Gump is the story of a stupid man’s haphazard stumbling through three decades of tempestuous Americana. Rooted deeply in the pop culture that defined the era’s collective consciousness, the whimsical and sometimes contrived nature of Forrest Gump’s humble tale is aided greatly by Tom Hanks’ Oscar-caliber performance as the dim-witted titular character. Robert Zemeckis’ use of special effects and poignant narration draws up waves of unforgettable iconography and a taste of bittersweet nostalgia for folks who lived through this golden age.
Not completely mentally handicapped, Forrest Gump is a heartfelt character who is the perfect window to experiencing America as it stood between the 1950s and the 1980s. Gump’s innocence is palpable as he moves through each phase of his life, encountering and touching all of the characters he meets along the way.
The audience is made to feel pity for Gump as his puppy-like advances are spurned again and again by the heroin-addled, abused HIV positive sweetheart Jenny. After being repeatedly shot down by Jenny and made into a lovable doormat despite his undying devotion, Gump still decides to name his shrimping boat after her.
Experiencing loss, regret, military glory, athletic achievement and endless examples an idiot’s embarrassment, Gump lives enough experiences for 100 lifetimes and has great influence on the events that transpire during his journey. From telling JFK that he needs to pee after drinking too many free sodas to aiding in the rescue of his fellow soldiers during the Vietnam war, Gump is there to see it all.
Although the film has a bit of a self-indulgent runtime and suffers a tiny bit from its whimsical goofiness, Forrest Gump is still a memorable piece of Americana and deserved its best picture award at the Oscars. Tom Hanks pulled off a gem of a performance and I still watch the film any time I catch it on cable, but I usually only stick around for my favorite parts. At any rate, it’s worth a watch and will delight audiences of any age. There’s so much to love about this movie.