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Wednesday, Oct 05, 2022

A millennial watches Forrest Gump: Sorry, this Tom Hanks classic can easily be skipped

I don't know if it would be criminal to say it, but I found Forrest Gump to be boring. For a while, there’s undeniable intrigue about Forrest but you start to lose interest in the 'yes-man' that he becomes.

Tom Hanks' Forrest Gump released in 1994. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

Forrest Gump began as a sweet little nothing but eventually when I tried to find depth in its subplots, it turned out there was none and everything was just on the surface. Ever since promotions of Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha began, people have been singing praises of the Tom Hanks starrer. But I guess it’s time to toss a few raspberries into the bouquet of hosannas.

A lot has been written about Forrest Gump. With six Academy Awards, the 1994 film has impressed not only those who watched the film at the time of its release, but also many others who have watched it over the years. Before I watched it, a friend told me, “It’s the best film. It will leave you in tears. It is so emotional. How come you have missed such a gem?” So, I went into it assuming I’m in for a joyful experience. But the film didn’t leave the impact I thought it would. Now that I think about it, I feel it would have been better if I had discovered the movie for myself, and not had the entire experience predigested for me.

While receiving the Best Picture Academy Award for the movie, director Robert Zemeckis described Forrest Gump as “a film that at its heart offers a human, life-affirming, hopeful story.” Yes, it is a human story packed with a lot of emotions. It is the story of Forrest Gump, a man with an IQ of 75, who despite all the bullying and being treated as an outsider, lives his life with honesty and empathy. He has no cynicism even towards those who ill-treat him. He doesn’t mind his childhood sweetheart Jenny coming and going out of his life frequently. His actions are never coloured by what other people did to him.

But, in creating a character so full of innocence, screenplay writer Eric Rothm, who adapted the script from Winston Groom’s novel of the same name, failed to give him any sort of agency.

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He is either sad or happy. There is no other emotion that he showcases from his childhood till he embraces parenthood in the climax. You never get to see him grow as an individual. Everything he achieves in life is sheer luck. When he was running away from some bullies, he ends up on a football field and gets noticed for his speed and gets offered a scholarship to college. He accidentally ends up in the Army and incidentally ends up saving his fellow soldiers during the Vietnam War while he was searching for his friend Bubba (Mykelti Williamson). He chances upon ping pong and then becomes a national champion. He also becomes a successful entrepreneur after finishing his service in the army. And how? Because the other boats in the shrimp business get destroyed in a storm.

tom hanks Forrest Gump Tom Hanks in a still from Forrest Gump. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

Is the film teaching us all you need in life is a bit of good luck to succeed?

For a while, there’s undeniable intrigue about Forrest but you start to lose interest in the ‘yes-man’ that he becomes. On being asked by his drill sergeant, “Gump, what’s your sole purpose in this Army?” He replies, “To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant!” And, that is what he does in the entire film, do what others tell him to do. He himself has no defined purpose in life. He also never questions Jenny when she leaves him.

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The more the movie goes on, the less it adds up. Zemeckis gives a tour of a crucial period in American history when the presidents were being assassinated. With CGI, he places Forrest next to several presidents: John F Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. He also addresses the crowd after the Vietnam War but we never listen to his opinion, which was probably our only chance to understand what actually went on inside him during the war, famously described as destroying the hope of a ‘decent America’.

forrest gump Robin Wright and Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump. (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

Towards the climax, we see Forrest running across America. A bunch of journalists ask him the purpose of his run. “Is it for world peace,” they suggest, “or homelessness, or women’s rights, or the environment? Animal rights?” He retorts by saying that people cannot comprehend that someone can run without a purpose. But, as a viewer, I am confused too. What was that running for and why did he stop? Was there some sort of enlightenment? Did he make peace with his heartbreak? Well, you never find out.

I don’t know if it would be criminal to say it, but I found Forrest Gump to be boring. At one point, I wanted it to just end because absolutely nothing was happening in it. What will stay with me from the movie is phrase: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

First published on: 10-08-2022 at 09:13:07 pm
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