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RELEASED: 1994, Cert. 12
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 142 mins
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
PRODUCERS: Wendy Fineman, Steve Starkey & Steve Tisch
SCREENPLAY: Eric Roth
MUSIC: Alan Silvestri
Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump
Robin Wright as Jenny
Mykelti Williamson as Bubba
Gary Sinise as Lt. Dan Taylor
Sally Field as Mrs Gump
FILM ONLY REVIEW
The film begins with Forrest Gump as an adult, perched on a bench by a bus stop, relating his life story to anybody who sits next to him and is willing (or not!) to listen.
Through flashbacks, we then see Forrest as a child, having walking problems which led to him wearing leg splints and his caring mother being told he has a below average IQ. Life isn't easy for the good-natured Forrest as he becomes a target for bullies. However, he makes friends with Jenny who offers him a lot of support, especially when she encourages him to run from the bullies....and, that's when Forrest discovers he has a skill in that he can pretty much outrun everyone and everything.
The story moves on as Forrest grows up, him joining the US army and being sent to Vietnam, whilst Jenny becomes a hippie and gets involved in the peace movement. In the army, Forrest becomes an adept table tennis player, and makes friends with fellow soldier Bubba, who is sadly killed.
Back in the USA when his army service comes to an end, Forrest by chance meets up with Lt. Dan Taylor who'd been his unit commander in Vietnam, and an interesting friendship develops.
Meanwhile, Jenny is always at the forefront of Forrest's mind, and they do cross paths again as Forrest involves himself in many different character-building projects.
Forrest Gump is one of these films which I have spent many years avoiding, as I was put off by the hype and the belief that it would be something I'd find extremely sloppy, oozing a gooey insincerity that I'd find most uncomfortable. However, I recently cast my prejudices aside and caught up with the rest of the world by giving this film a chance....me being a fan of Tom Hanks coming to the rescue!
From what I can gather, some claim that Forrest Gump is loosely based on a true story, although I can say that I'm sure such an unusual character would have made news headlines worldwide during the latter part of the 1960s and into the 1970s, yet I never heard anything of him. Also, is it really based on an actual person, bearing in mind that the film is an adaptation of Winston Groom's novel of the same name?
I like the way Forrest Gump begins, with him smartly dressed, simply sitting on a bench at a bus stop, chattering good-naturedly away to anybody who sat next to him....some of those people being willing listeners and some not.
I felt for Forrest in the first part of the film where he became the butt of bullies simply because he wasn't blessed with the sharpest of minds and had to wear leg clamps to assist his walking, but I found his childhood friendship with Jenny to be quite heartwarming....Jenny too had her problems, and it was great to see how the two as children supported one another.
The acting in Forrest Gump is pretty good. Sally Field absolutely perfected the protective, caring mother and Robin Wright nailed the part of Jenny as an adult...vulnerable and easily led, yet standing her ground firmly when dealing with Forrest. For me, the jewels in the acting crown go to Gary Sinise as Lt. Dan Taylor, the gruff ex-army veteran whose view of life becomes seriously (and understandably) jaded after becoming disabled due to his Vietnam war injury, and of course Tom Hanks who is truly brilliant as the good-natured young man who has some what I'd call very mild learning difficulties, yet is a brave, adventurous and resourceful individual. Hanks held the essence of Forrest's character right through, never faltering, paying great attention to detail such as his facial expressions, hardly ever looking people in the eye directly, and although almost never miserable, rarely smiling.
The film travels through the late 1950s right up to the early 1980s, and aside from the penned score (which is a little too sugary for my liking, being light orchestral in nature), there is some great additional music, especially that which accompanied the scenes of hippie/yippie activity during the 1960s in the USA. A few of the tracks included are Break On Through by The Doors, Everybody Get Together by The Youngbloods, Stop Hey What's That Sound by Buffalo Springfield....and many more hippie era gems.
From a nostalgic point of view, Forrest Gump as a film is handled expertly with great attention being paid to historical accuracy. However, a couple of the scenes centred around anti-war demonstrations and general hippie activity I feel were too glossy. My own memories of how the movement really happened are much grittier than they are portrayed on this film.
There are moments within Forrest Gump when some people will reach for the tissue box, where the sadder or tender scenes are put across with a mawkish kind of sentimentality...and it is these moments which prevent me from awarding this film the full quota of stars. I really do find this kind of sentimentality quite embarrassing, unreal and up to a point insulting towards someone who has mild learning difficulties....e.g. gushing and exaggerated expostulations of praise towards somebody who is trying to be 'normal' (whatever that is...and, the issue of what's 'normal' and what isn't does come up in the dialogue), I feel can serve to separate and isolate the person even more by labelling them as being 'problematic', whereas perhaps such needn't necessarily be so. I did find those little parts of the film far too heavy-handed on the gush....but, I did like Forrest's own attitude towards himself and life, seeing it as far more healthy and realistic. I could hammer on forever about psychology behind the 'gush' syndrome, but won't.
Even with its faults, Forrest Gump is an enjoyable film to watch. It certainly is a lavish production where all the stops have been pulled out to create a film which is constantly on the go. However, for me it is a little too long, causing my attention to flag just a little here and there...but overall and despite the 'gooey' bits, I enjoyed it far more than I though I would.
Do I recommend Forrest Gump? For the most part, yes, especially to people who have the same dislike of misappropriated sentimentality as my own. It does have a generous smattering of those uncomfortable aspects, but it also has enough 'down-to-earthedness' to keep most viewers on the level. A few of the historic events are sweetened up somewhat, but for those who have no living memory of them, such might not pose as a problem.
In summary, Forrest Gump is a mostly entertaining film which has a positive, never-say-die focus, is well-acted (especially by Tom Hanks and Gary Sinise) and has some great additional music. It perhaps is a little too long and a little too 'sweet', but if you can tolerate those parts, this is a film which I found surprisingly better than I was anticipating.
At the time of writing, Forrest Gump can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.16 to £25.00
Used: from £2.40 to £29.99
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
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