Andy Warhol had an IQ of 86. Muhammad Ali had an IQ of 78. Look at those chumps.
The truth is, those two IQs are probably false. But Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks), on the other hand, definitely has the lowly IQ of just 75. The film – by the same name – is based around the early years of his life, entwined around key historical events passing him by, all the while fantasising about his childhood crush, Jenny (Robin Wright).
Tom Hanks, who I also praised a lot for Catch Me If You Can, is once again excellent as Mr Gump. It’s weird – I’ve always thought of him as a brilliant actor, but it is only when you put it into perspective and look at all the roles he has played that you can truly appreciate it. People forget that Hanks started off as a quirky, comic leading man in films such as Big, Splash and romcoms (Sleepless In Seattle), and transformed himself in the mid to late 90s into the actor we know today with a bounty of brilliant films – Bridge of Spies, Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Toy Story for god’s sake! He’s never been seduced by a particular image or persona that has strapped him down to one type of role. While not being regarded in the same category as De Niro or Hoffman – so called transformative actors – Hanks’ choices have always been bold.
Forrest Gump is a pretty bland, boring, dull character, with not many attributes apart from his lightening speed and lacking the narrow definition of intelligence. But Hanks transforms him into a funny, likeable man, who you get drawn to, want to see what happens and enjoy his antics.
Robert Zemeckis is the director, who has now also worked with Hanks in Cast Away and The Polar Express. This was one of his earliest most successful serious films. Before, he had worked on zany comedy like Romancing The Stone, but Forrest Gump planted him as one of the best directors. He includes trademark special effects as seen in Back To The Future and they once again work finely in this movie.
Many romance films usually try to be sweet, but excess sugar, as we all know, can weaken a film so much that it collapses. Is this the case with Forrest Gump? I don’t think Forrest Gump can be too Hollywood being set in Alabama. An overdose of artificial sweeteners? I never really like romantic films, so my go to answer would be yes, but in this case, maybe, maybe, there is more to it. Unlike the predictable ending in Sleepless In Seattle, this film delivers something different – just like the box of seemingly simple chocolates. We discover this analogy to be far more complex than you would first perceive as this ending is similarly bitter sweet.
Forrest Gump, through his childlike eyes, he sees everything far clearer than the rest of us, or certainly with no sheen of cynicism. His enthusiastic and unassuming attitude means he encounters the likes of Elvis, George Wallace, presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, John Lennon and more. He fights in Vietnam, competes in international ping-pong – the first to go to China for 23 years – founds a shrimping company, invests in Apple and jogs cross-country for 3 years (which still doesn’t quite make sense to me).
This film is all about exposing the stupidity of smartness. The two main characters, Forrest and his love Jenny, are direct contrasts. Forrest is innocent and certain of the rights and wrong of the world. Jenny is lacking firm values and gets caught up in social slides. In other words, Forrest represents the world of the white picket fence, newspaper on the lawn, church going every Sunday – when it was easy to tell who the good guys were and who the bad ones were, which became blurred with the rise of the civil rights movement, the assassination of the Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King and entanglement in the Vietnam war.
Forrest always tries to protect Jenny from all the social movements she’s involved in, just as she tries to protect him by running away and keep his hands clean.
Any whiff of rebellion in this film is a danger to our loveable protagonist. Just by doing the so called right things, he becomes a war hero and rich. The film whitewashes and dumbs down mosts points in American history, but some of the coverage of the Vietnam war shows the terrible price the soldiers had to pay, mostly enlisted from poorer working class families and African Americans.
It isn’t the most realistic of films, but it certainly is a feel good. Get past its love of the American Dream, and you’ll have a nice afternoon. No masterpiece, but definitely quality performances.
Best character: ‘Lieutenant Dan!’ Lt. Dan is the foolhardy gruff man intent on dying in the Vietnam war, just like all his ancestors. When Forrest saves him, he’s enraged, but after a while, he warms to Gump, and ends up making millions from the shrimp ship and investments. Similar to Gump, they both have lost or lack something – whilst Forrest is fast, Dan loses his physical attributes in ‘Nam, and whilst Dan is smart, Forrest lacks recognised intelligence.
Least favourite character: I’ll tell ya, propaganda works. Because I’m going with Jenny. Don’t worry, I won’t be voting for Ivanka Trump next election, but Jenny is annoying as a character anyway. Forrest could do far better.
Favourite scene: The ‘Gotta Pee’ scene, where Forrest tells president Kennedy, after being an ‘All American’ and drinking 15 Dr Peppers, that he has to go to the toilet.
Best quote: I could go with the famed whilst cheesy ‘Run, Forrest, run!’, but instead the more classic (imagine this in a southern drool), ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’
Also, I’ve put these little thumbs at the bottom – try them out… preferably the one on the left.
Forrest Gump – 7.5 out of 10