Rating: 3 stars (out of 4)
Forrest Gump (1994): Dir. Robert Zemeckis. Written by: Eric Roth. Based upon the novel of the same nameby Winston Groom. Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field, and Mykelti Williamson. Rated PG-13 for drug content, some sensuality, and war violence. Running time: 142 minutes.
Twenty years later, Forrest Gump has remained a favorite of audiences (if not cinephiles). An epic in disguise, Gump follows a man of limited intelligence who nonetheless leaves major impacts on American history.
Gump represents a kind of baby-boomer romp from the mid-1940s into the early 1980s. Despite his low I.Q., the title character gains a football scholarship, receives a Medal of Honor for service in the Vietnam War, founds a successful shrimping operation, and becomes a multi-millionaire. He encounters love and loss as he pursues a relationship with his childhood friend Jenny.
Despite its whimsical tone, Gump weaves quite a bit of tragedy into its narrative as Forrest loses the woman he loves multiple times. The film gains strength and authenticity by acknowledging tragedy, even if it occasionally sanitizes its character’s hardships. Director Robert Zemeckis depends on his actors to carry the dramatic weight, and they do so nicely. Hanks never overdoes the simpleton act, remaining likable throughout. And Robin Wright does great work as the wounded Jenny, whose angelic qualities belie her history of abuse. The film also finds a source of redemption in Gary’s Sinise’s Lieutenant Dan, who gains a new lease on life after Forrest rescues him in Vietnam.
Zemeckis knows how to pace his film, and he leapfrogs from one set-piece to the next without upsetting the flow of the narrative—appropriate given the usually unfazed nature of the lead character. The film mines humor from Forrest’s influence on everything from Elvis’s hip-shaking to the discovery of Watergate. Some of it seems gimmicky, but at other points it reminds us that history springs from the everyday. And though the special effects with Forrest and the presidents don’t look sharp in 2014, they lend a certain charm.
As with Schindler’s List, my positive review comes with some reservations. Gump may have Hollywood-ized its source material, but it still has some bite.
Next film: Braveheart, 1995