I’ve always been a fan of “Forrest Gump” since its release in 1994, mainly because I admire the character of Gump so much. Gump really is the American dream through and through, and Tom Hanks’ turn as Gump outweighs any flaws in Robert Zemeckis’ ode to the perception of America and the American Dream. “Forrest Gump” explores how Gump pretty much shifts through amazing experiences and seems to soak them in more than anyone else around him. His spirit and good nature is very infectious and influences others much in the vein of “Being There.”
And though Gump really does end up embodying the dream most Americans strive for, his biggest is claiming the love of his childhood friend Jenny. Hanks is immense as the mentally disabled young man whose entire life is built around pain that keeps him moving, rather than destroying him. Director Zemeckis stretches history to inject Forrest in to the foreground and background of many unique events, all the while chronicling the transformation of a very closed off human being that looks for fulfillment and can only really find it with wholesome love in the end. Most of the film is told through flashbacks as Forrest regales random passersby waiting for a bus about his extraordinary life that began living in poverty in Alabama, and a crippling disease that formed in to a search for a purpose.
Forrest accidentally stumbles in to becoming an all star football player, and then in to the military to serve during the Vietnam war. Zemeckis constructs a fantastic cast including Mykelti Williamson, Sally Field, and Gary Sinise whose performance as Forrest’s Lieutenant Dan, also seeking purpose after surviving the war, is a scene stealer, nearly topping Hanks’ own turn with the character. Robin Wright is equally mesmerizing as Jenny who Forrest loves regardless of the turns she takes in her own personal life. With an excellent soundtrack and wonderful special effects, Director Zemeckis brings the history alive through Gump, also depicting the darker side of America through Jenny and Lieutenant Dan.
Dan embodies the America that turned a blind eye to its veterans, while Jenny is the lost soul permanently doomed to battle her demons despite the decadence and bad relationships she hides in. No idea of the American experience is the definitive one, it’s just three converging roads in the world seeking some sense of completion in a country filled with opportunities and false promises. Forrest is only able to experience his dreams because of his optimism and sense of courage, but even when at his most successful isn’t really satisfied with what everyone has told him is the American dream. “Forrest Gump” is a compelling and bittersweet dramedy that depicts various ideologies of what we perceive as fulfillment in a world where everyone wants success and happiness. For that, it’s one of my all time favorite films.