A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Forrest Gump

October 11, 2010

Forrest Gump

That guy from Bosom Buddies won his second Oscar with this movie. But of course he had a lot of help. This movie is one of those dream projects that only very rarely comes along. It has an amazing, touching, heartbreakingly simple script. It has adept and wonderful direction. It has some fun special effects and a playful attitude about the pop culture of the second half of the twentieth century. And of course it has some astonishingly good acting from Tom Hanks.

This is a five-tissue movie for me. I was tearing up from the very beginning when the iconic feather that bookends the movie and the quaint theme music started. To say that this is a movie that tugs at the heart strings would be an understatement. It is a movie that grabs the heart strings and YANKS them. Repeatedly. It is a movie that has as its only purpose the goal of making you care about this simple guy from Greenbow Alabama so that when the improbable circumstances of his life unfold you can cheer or weep along.

I don’t suppose there’s any point in summing up the plot. You’ve probably seen the movie before, and if you haven’t I don’t want to spoil things. It’s the story of the life and times of Forrest Gump, a man with a million catch phrases and a childlike simplicity to him. (Who, at the time that this movie came out, was not sick almost instantly of “Life is like a box of chocolates” or “Stupid is as stupid does” or “Run, Forrest, RUN!”) Through crazy random happenstance he is part of a number of iconic moments of history in the nineteen fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties. The movie is very cleverly told through Forrest’s narration as he sits on a bench waiting for his bus and he tells his life story to a series of people sitting next to him. Throughout the movie the central theme is his simple and undying love for the tragic Jenny, his childhood friend who seems to have nothing but trouble in her life and whom he can never quite seem to save from herself and her demons.

The writing in this movie is simply astonishing. It uses a number of clever devices to draw you into Forrest’s story and make you a part of it. For example there are the people listening to his tale, simple random folk like ourselves who start out skeptical and become caught up in the story as he tells it. And there are crowd pleasing get-up-and-cheer moments like Forrest and Jenny meeting in the reflecting pool on the national mall. It’s also fun how Forrest never actually names any of the historic figures he encounters in his life – they’re just folks to him. This not only makes you use your brain a little but makes you an active participant in the story telling as you sort of translate the events he’s describing. I’ve never read the novel the book is based on, so I don’t know how much of this is the work of novelist Winston Groom and how much is that of screenplay writer Eric Roth. All I know is that the script itself is golden, which must have drawn in a lot of the talent that is attached to the film.

Robert Zemeckis has been one of my favorite directors for ages. He always enjoys using special effects as more than story-telling tools. They’re an integral part of his movies. Roger Rabbit for example creates a whole noir mystery around the flawless integration of live action and cartoons. Death Becomes Her revels in the strange ways that it can abuse the re-animated corpses that inhabit the film. And lately he has become the great pioneer into movies that blend motion capture and computer animation so that his more recent films are virtually nothing BUT special effects. This movie must have been a playground for him. Forrest is cleverly integrated into all kinds of archival footage (although in a couple cases – LBJ and John Lennon most notably – the lip replacement used doesn’t quite work.) There’s also a lot of subtle effects work used to remove Gary Sinise’s legs when his character becomes a paraplegic. So for a fan of special effects this film is a treat, and it’s kind of fun to see so many advanced techniques being used in a simple story that involves no time travel or aliens.

Speaking of Gary Sinise – his role as the bitter Lieutenant Dan is another of those things in the movie that really makes it shine. Sure Tom Hanks won the Oscar, and his Forrest is wonderful – able to communicate that though he may be simple minded he actually understands a great deal, but Gary steals the show any time he’s on screen.

I just love this movie. I know it’s manipulative. I know it’s over-the-top. But you can’t help loving Forrest or the people he cares for. It makes me cheer and it makes me cry, and it makes me want to watch it all over again…

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

November 11, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , , ,

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