Monday, 26 February 2018

Watching A Classic - Forrest Gump (1994)

It created a lot of hype when released and went on to gain Tom Hanks his back-to-back Oscars in 1995, a feat no other actor has managed since. The film itself beat Four Weddings and a Funeral to the Best Picture Oscar and gained 45 awards in all, from Golden Globes to a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild Award to an Amanda Award from Norway.

Despite being a classic and one that outdid my fave of the year Four Weddings and a Funeral to the Best Picture Academy Award, I had none the less got through my years since without so much as a peak at this positively-reviewed drama (if you may call it that?)

It all changed this week when, on someone's recommendation, I watched it for a first time. I started out expectant, lost interest at its long-winded narrative and then ended in buckets of tears as Forrest and Jenny's star-crossed lovers plot reminded me very much of my biggest love story. Which is to say, at the end of it, the film was a success in my books.

It has been defined as satire, suggested to be a story through the eyes of innocence in the form of a simple man and even described as a walk through of the USA's historical events and fads of Gump's and Jenny's lifetime. I believe that above everything else, I would call it a character study that incorporates life's possibilities, probabilities and hinderances in an experiment to see what Hank's Forrest would do with them all.

SPOILERS ALERT - I mentioned earlier Forrest and Jenny's romance, if it could be so called as long as it was one-sided. From their initial bonding over being different to their prayer in the field as they hide from Jenny's dad, from Forrest's protectiveness towards his sweetheart to his naming the whole fleet of shrimping boats 'Jenny', this was one love affair that was sure to succeed at the end. Even as Jenny sank further and further into a life she felt made her unworthy of her childhood friend's unconditional love, an invisible string seemed to keep them coming back to each other to cross paths again, at times coincidentally and at others out of their own sheer will. Even from the beginning, as Hanks sat on the outdoor bench relating his character's story through the eyes of one with an IQ of 75, that box of chocolates sitting in his lap attracted my attention time and again, not for his borrowed phrase that life is much like a chocolate box, with a surprise taste with each choice you make, but rather because it had to signify something.

True enough, he was on the way to Jenny's even as he related the tale. I never expected Gump to be her son's dad, especially since the film only hinted at and never revealed did Jenny and Forrest sleep together on that last night before she disappeared from his life again. Which leads me to what was for me one of the most moving moments in the film. When Forrest finds himself alone again after that special night with Jenny in his arms, he is unable to take the normality of his life any more and so he runs; maybe not runs away exactly, but runs without direction nonetheless. Truly, any of us who have lost the love of someone that meant much to them would know how directionless and haphazard our life becomes after that.

I mentioned that this is satire, a story about innocence, a character study, and a historical walk of events. Above all else, in my opinion, I would class it as a love story that will remain relevant through the years. Gump might serve in Vietnam, win at ping-pong and run across multiple States of the USA, but it is all done through his love of Jenny and for his love of Jenny; the one meaning in the chaos of life. Could that be why he bulldozes Jenny's father's house at the end? More than to destroy that place which had caused Jenny not only pain but a life of regret, maybe he destroyed it to remove that one thing that had led her astray from his arms for so long.

I would above all else, call this the eternal romance of innocence and experience intertwined. After all, that is why it probably resonates with viewers to the point of being still remembered twenty-three and a half years later as soon as I mention it by name. Forrest Gump will never die in film-goers' hearts.

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