Forest Gump

“Forrest Gump” 1994 – Directed by Robert Zemekis

There aren’t very many movie lines quite as iconic as “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”  Forrest Gump, the simple Southern man with an endearing and good-natured manner has become an important character in American fiction.  He gracefully stumbles through life in the between the 1950s and the 1990s unintentionally affecting some of the most influential people and moments in American history.  From meeting a young Elvis Presley, winning a Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War, meeting three presidents and becoming an accidental millionaire, Forrest Gump speaks to not only the Baby Boomer generation, but to anyone who watches his journey.

It can be argued that while Forrest lives through some of the most tumultuous times and biggest changes in American history, he is the one thing in this movie that doesn’t change.  His character really doesn’t “develop” a whole lot; he greets his school bus driver on the first day of school in much the same way that he greets the bus driver when he joins the army.  Anytime he gets into any trouble he does the same thing; he runs.  His childhood friend Jenny gives him the advice “Run, Forrest, run” early in life to escape school bullies and those simple words carry him through life.  

He is constantly selfless and beautifully simple.  He doesn’t have a big cathartic experience halfway through the movie that makes him see things differently, frankly because he doesn’t need to.  His way of viewing life is something we should all strive for.  He has no preconceptions and no ego to cloud his vision.  He does things because they are the right things to do, plain and simple.  He follows the lessons he learned as a child and is fiercely loyal to those he loves.  

Watching “Forrest Gump” as an adult is a much different experience than it was when I watched it in the 90s.  Not only do I understand a lot more of the jokes and little references – for instance, as a kid I didn’t really realize what Mrs. Gump does to get Forrest accepted into regular school, or that Jenny dies of AIDS – I also appreciate it for its deeper meaning.  This movie is an epic journey through the craziness of America in the latter half of the 20th century told through the eyes of someone who couldn’t care less how influential he was, he was just living his life.  

One line that sums up Forrest’s philosophy of life comes from the scene when he goes to visit Jenny at college. She asks him who he wants to become in the future, essentially who he wants to be when he grows up.  Puzzled, he says “Won’t I just be me?” This perfectly encapsulates this movie.  Forrest is just concerned about being himself, while the world spins around him.

 

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