(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Forrest Gump (1994)
One Sentence Plot Summary: A possibly undiagnosed autistic man is a benefactor of a benevolent form of capitalism while his lifelong love interest is punished for daring to experiment with drugs, protest an unjust war, and engage in a great deal of pre-marital coitus.
Why It’s On the List: Here’s the thing about this movie. I know full well that Forrest goes through a very Disneyified version of American history and that the idea of so much just happening to him is absurd. The story hasn’t necessarily aged well, and the idea that this movie won over Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption for best picture at the 1995 Academy Awards is absurd, yet I still genuinely enjoy it from beginning to end almost despite itself.
Right from the very beginning, Alan Silvestri’s score guides us through the story of Forrest Gump. Normally, the idea of narration is a major crutch for filmmaker, but it makes sense to see this story from an unreliable narrator. Forrest does tell us stories throughout his life, but that doesn’t mean they’re all true or accurate. We are seeing the world distilled within Forrest’s mind. Tom Hanks won an Academy Award in 1994 for his role in Philadelphia, but I believe it’s this movie that connected him deeply into the American psyche to the point where his admitted COVID-19 diagnosis represented just how serious this virus was. I think there’s a distinct possibility this character has autism just based on his ability to focus but not really take on the visual emotion cues of his friends and family.
Robert Zemeckis again used technology to advance the story as Gump was seen in numerous pieces of archive footage talking with presidents. Unfortunately, some of those moments aren’t as smooth as they were in 1994. What has aged incredibly well is Lt. Dan’s missing legs. The effect still looks great, and Gary Sinise gives the best performance of his career. I’d argue Sinise’s character is the one who evolves most, from a borderline psychopath who wanted to die on the battlefield to a bitter ‘cripple’ to having a full life with a shrimp boat and fiancée.
Jenny gets treated pretty shabbily, and I’d argue a movie through her journey would be significantly more interesting given what she witnesses. Robin Wright brings a tremendous amount to the role, but like so many other female performers, her primary role is to be supportive of the male character. She and Hanks have very good chemistry, and when Forrest sees his son for the first time and wonder if he has similar mental issues… it still works. The acting and direction are ultimately why the movie still work in 2020.
*Forrest joins a black choir to better his shrimp company.
*Jenny…the whole character
*The portrayal of the Vietnam War. I guess Forrest’s unit burning down villages and killing innocent Vietnamese wouldn’t have made for an ideal film. That’s why Forrest’s narration being potentially unreliable is important.
*Bubba Gump is the black best friend who dies.
MVP and Best Performance: Tom Hanks. Not even close. I think his is the most important aspect of the film almost 30 years later because the technology might not age well. The screenplay dumbs a lot of history down. Hanks still personifies a certain type of person and has become an indelible part of American film history.
Best Quote: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know whatcha GONNA get.” -Forrest Gump, multiple times (Who hasn’t said this line ironically or unironically multiple times).
Is there a sequel? The novel this is based off does have a sequel that sound even more bananas than this movie does. Thankfully, Zemeckis, Hanks, and screenwriter Eric Roth have wisely chosen to stay away a film version.