Ruuuuuuuun Forest!

Mamma always told me that life is like a box of chocolates. Actually, that’s not true. Mamma always told me to put them chocolates down and eat an apple. My youth was full of life lessons, just like those in Forest Gump. Those are the lessons that shape, guide, and define a person. If they’re followed properly then maybe that person will grow up to be fine and wholesome, just like Forest. Or Tom Hanks. Either one is the kind of beautiful human that we should strive to imitate. Forest Gump is about this journey from childhood to independence. The story doesn’t reach for a conclusion or fulfill a special purpose. It’s about a simple boy’s remarkable life, seizing opportunities as they present themselves, and going with the flow. If ‘the flow’ isn’t an option, then it’s also important to learn how to run like the wind.

Some people are born smart while others are born lucky. You could write a paper on which category claims Forest Gump (Tom Hanks). Forest is a little slow academically, but he’s very good at taking direction. A series of cascading lessons lead him from a dirt road in Alabama to the president’s office. Three times. Forest’s journey starts on the first day of school when he meets Jenny (Robin Wright) and they become best friends. It was Jenny who first told Forest to run – from the bullies – and he never slowed down. He ran straight through high school sports into college, the military, an athletic career, and sponsorships which give him the money to open a business, etc. etc. life rolls on. One step leads to another and Forest builds a rather successful life just by being open to possibilities, faithful to promises, and kind to others. Through every stage, Forest only thinks of Jenny. He could die in the war, make millions in investments, meet every man assassinated in the last half-century and Forest’s first thought will always be of Jenny. Unfortunately, Jenny’s path is very different. Forest can run as far and as fast as he likes, but he can’t force Jenny to run his way.

Forest Gump is a narrative. We meet Forest while he’s waiting for the bus and strikes up a conversation – his whole life’s story – with another waiting passenger. That person isn’t terribly interested in Forest’s story, but the next person sticks around, and the next, and the next. Here’s the first of many metaphors about life. Eventually, Forest’s story catches up with the present and he runs off to meet up with his future. Tom Hanks has played a lot of roles, but Forest is one of his most iconic. Forest is either in every scene or narrating it. The film is half compelling drama and half audio book. It’s one thing to act out a character and another to bring him to life with just a disembodied voice. Through everything, Hanks never wavers from Forest’s core personality. He maintains an honest, breezy, story-telling tone as he talks about everything from romantic sunsets to vengeful amputees. There’s no denying that Forest is a little slow; he doesn’t always know what to do or where to go. But he somehow always knows what to say. Hanks pores every ounce of honest friendliness into Forest that a person can possibly muster without spontaneously mutating into Snow White. Through success and heartbreak, Forest weathers life like a rubber duck in a hurricane.

This classic movie finds a special balance between a sad story about life, loss, and of course love, and hilarity. Forest’s life is one lucky break after another. If this story were true, Forest would be the inspiration behind everything from Elvis’ dance moves to the “Shit happens” bumper sticker. His ability to innocently wander around lands him in the middle of every defining historical event from 1960 to 1980. He’s a trend-setter simply by following the crowd. It’s a backwards philosophy but, then again, so is Forest.

Wrapped around press tours with the Beatles and rallies against the war in Vietnam is the summer soundtrack you’ve been waiting for. Forest jogs through the decades followed by hippie tunes and road trip staples. The music accompanies Forest past outstanding scenery of the USA while crowds of people follow in his wake waiting for their leader to make a wise, insightful statement about life. Once he’s cleared his head, Forest turns around and heads home, back through the Summer of ’69 chart toppers.

Forest Gump is a calming movie. We need more of these. Usually movies are dramatic, suspenseful, or shocking. Forest Gump is just peaceful. Things work out for Forest in a way that relates to only the very lucky. For a movie from the 1990s about a “slow person,” Forest Gump has aged surprisingly well. If you’ve ever just wanted Tom Hanks to read you a story on a rainy night, here’s your chance. Forest Gump is an 8/10.