Forrest Gump (1994)

There is something about the opening title sequence for Forrest Gump that just gets me. It’s so simple and so perfect – also something I couldn’t quite appreciate the first time I saw this movie because I was so young (I was six when it first came out). And of course, you have to love the first lines:

“Hello. My name’s Forrest – Forrest Gump. D’you want a chocolate? I could eat about a million and a half of these. My momma always said, life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

The official description calls Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) a simple-minded man, but he can also be called an optimist. While he may not understand everything happening around him, he always sees the best in people. Jenny (Robin Wright) keeps him close when it’s convenient and leaves him behind on a whim if she feels the desire to run off someplace else. Yet his world revolves around her and he never stops caring about her – he sees her kindness and potential more than how broken she is from her upbringing. Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise) is cranky, depressed and angry after the Vietnam War but Forrest sees past that and stays close to him regardless. His outlook constantly clashes with that of the people around him, but whose is really better?

Forrest witnesses – and is even involved in – most of the key events of the 1960s and 1970s, from Elvis to JFK, Vietnam, Nixon and John Lennon. He describes being shot in Vietnam (right in the but-tocks) as having something come right up and bite him – and then he shows it to Nixon on national television. He meets JFK and Lennon then says they were shot for no real reason.

Then there’s Bubba Blue, who doesn’t make it through the War to live on his own shrimp boat, so Forrest does it for him. With the help of Lt. Dan he sets out to catch some shrimp on a boat named ‘Jenny’ and they end up being pretty successful with Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Of course, that’s cut short with the death of his mom (Sally Field) from cancer.

Everything revolves around Jenny, and finally she comes back into his life. Once again, they’re “like peas and carrots” and she stays with him for a while until he asks her to marry him. She’s spent her whole life running from her past and even Forrest can’t change her.

“I am not a smart man – but I know what love is.”

So Forrest starts running himself – down the road, across the county, the state, and all the way to Santa Monica, CA – then to Maine and back again. He crosses the country time and time again, getting the attention of national news. And then people start following him and they attribute meaning to it, although he maintains that it’s just because he felt like it. Eventually he sees it as a bit more than that.

“You’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.”

Forrest Gump 2All this is told while he is sitting on a bench waiting for bus number 9. People come and go waiting for their own busses, listening to him tell bits of his story. Finally we find out he is on his way to see Jenny, who wrote asking him to come visit and he finds out he has a son with Jenny. She is dying and finally asks him to marry her after introducing him to his son. At the wedding, Lt. Dan has new legs and Forrest finally has a family again.

Of course, when he first meets his son, what I first think of is a post a saw a few weeks back about that moment. Whether you thought of it yourself or not, it perfectly describes that moment for Forrest.

So while Forrest Gump is about the 60s and 70s in America, it is even more so about a man trying to make it in a world he doesn’t understand. Life can be hard when you see things differently, but what Forrest always got right was to never stop caring about the people who matter. He may not have understood why Lt Dan was always so angry, but he stuck with him as a friend anyway through thick and thin. He may not have understood what made Jenny the way she was, but that didn’t stop him from loving her. He did a lot with his life but he cared less about the things themselves and more about the people who mean the world to him.

I have to say, I remember liking this movie when I first saw it. I’m not sure how old I was exactly then, but I know I got more out of watching it this time around. There’s a reason people still quote it twenty years later. A much deserved spot on the Top 250.

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