A movie that has, for the major part, held its own against time, a movie that essentially made me (and hopefully many others), fall in love with the art form, one that needs little introduction, Forrest Gump.
There are plenty of obvious reasons why it is a good feel-good movie, but it is only when one dwells into the intricacies of the screenplay and the performances that one really fathoms why. It had the capacity to instantly take you off guard with its first act. I’ll be the first to admit that the cleverly crafted opening scene with the floating feather and its eventual landing next to the protagonist, the components in the suitcase being something like the modern-day synopsis we find under releases on OTT platforms, and the profoundness of the words, “Life was (not ‘is’) like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”, were all, mere words to the ears of a 12 year old watching an “English” movie at 4 a.m. on a weekday. For him, the emotional connect was established when the loud grunts of a misogynist’s ejaculation, overshadowed a desperate mother’s attempt to secure a better academic future for her special child. There are not many things as universal as a mother’s love for her offspring and the film essentially manages to adjust this universality with themes of patriotism and respect for God, thus creating an emotional core, that beats like the proverbial heart of the story.
Essentially based on a book of the same name by Winston Groom, the movie couldn’t have perhaps been made with a different cast. Gary Sinise is the tough but kind-hearted lieutenant whose equation with Forrest is beautifully crafted. He and the audience realise that the valour one should possess to live one’s life with myriad limitations is far rarer than the valour to die on a battlefield. The chemistry and warmth brought in by the leads Tom Hanks (Forrest) and his love interest, Robin Wright (playing Jenny), is something that will stay with you long after the end credits roll. There is a childlike innocence that never at a single point in time becomes overbearing or cheesy, to the adult relationship they share that is very refreshing to witness. However, in my eyes, it is Mykelti Williamson’s Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue and his camaraderie with Forrest that especially stands out. One always craves for a friend like Bubba, who was there for Forrest when the pillars of his life, his mother and Jenny, weren’t. Of all the deaths in the movie, his is the one that will make you tear up the most.
There, of course, are several issues with the movie itself. For instance, the portrayal of the Vietnam War was very convenient to the palate of the American audience. The same argument can also be rightly presented for the movie as a whole, the convenience with which each major historical event depicted was integrated into the screenplay, making one ask, how far can artistic liberty be stretched? In my humble opinion, the movie just about manages to be believable. It doesn’t simply show events of the past occurring or failing to occur through the actions of its characters in a far-fetched montage, there is natural build-up at play and it doesn’t necessarily seem long drawn out.
The movie also manages to put forth what can be described as a very real America, one that doesn’t necessarily try to propagate the overblown “American Dream”. It largely stays true to the source material and delivers aptly, thus rendering onto the screen a very relatable place. The characters are human and ones we would eventually meet in life, with emotions that we would eventually experience like grief from love that isn’t reciprocated, joy that one knows will be short-lived and everything in between. In other words, the setting just happens to be America and with the requisite changes can very well be based on any region on the planet, a fact that makes me hopeful for its Bollywood remake.
Another really interesting advantage the movie possesses is of the protagonist being an outsider in many ways, a metaphor perhaps for the fact that we as humans can over time end up making a part of the world our own home, irrespective of where we hail from geographically, economically or in any other perceivable aspect. The movie strays away from depicting that Forrest is conscious of the moral high ground he stays on over the others in his life, as is made beautifully evident in the scene he’s introduced to his son with the words “He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. But… is, is he smart, or is he…”, coming out of his mouth with the utmost sincerity and genuine concern for a life that he just learnt had a part of his. There are instances when you may question your own morality and actual stance on sensitive issues. One may find it offensive to laugh at the psychological challenges of an individual, but the film very carefully deals with this conundrum. For example, in a scene where Forrest mistakes Apple Inc. to be some fruit company, the intent of the joke is to not make one laugh at Forrest, but at the ignorance of the general public at large in the technological and economical affairs of the Silicon Valley during the period.
There aren’t many movies that can claim to be pure classics, this however, is exactly one such movie. Being one, has its downfalls, though. It is very easy to write it off as overrated and move on. But please do give it a try first, if you haven’t still. And if you are a purist who isn’t convinced by box-office figures and DVD sales, take it from a guy who had once went to school all dandy, without a single minute’s sleep, sure of having watched his favourite movie, whispering to himself, “Run Abhijit, run!”
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.