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The World According to Gump

August 8, 2007

Forrest Gump evokes two kinds of reactions in people- you love it for it’s Gumpisms, pop psychology, heart warming moments else you hate it for it’s sentimentalism, it’s basic concept itself and  it’s feel good nature. To each his own, but I belong to the first category. More than anything else, I loved the central idea of the movie, that to make it in life, you don’t need to be a Harvard graduate or be blessed with Greek good looks or born with a silver spoon or have an I.Q. high enough to be admitted into Mensa. Some how there have been dime a dozen books on success, but I don’t think any one can really determine what makes some people succeed and some people fail. Neither Bill Gates nor Dhirubai Ambani were known for their academic excellence, in fact both of them were drop outs. Albert Einstein was not admitted into college, because his grades were so low. Thomas Alva Edison, was a high school drop out, yet when he died, he had over a 1000 patents to his credit. To succeed in life, just hard work would not do, you also need to have the knack of being in the right place at the right time.

Forrest Gump( Tom Hanks) is from a small town in Alabama. His IQ is below the average level, which mean’s that the way he thinks is much different than the way you and me think. The movie is narrated in a flash back mode, with Gump sitting at the bus stop, and talking to people close by. His mother Mrs Gump( Sally Field) is single, and runs a boarding house in Alabama, for people moving about. In school he becomes friends with Jenny( Robin Wright Penn), in fact she is his only friend. Jenny has an unhappy life, being sexually abused by her father, which Forrest hints at.

While running from the high school bullies, he wanders into an American foot ball match and the coach takes him for the college team. He becomes a top player, and as part of All American team, he meets President John F Kennedy also. After graduation, he joins the military and takes part in the Vietnam war. He makes friends with a young black shrimper from Louisiana, Bubba( Mykelti Williamson), who knows everything about “shrimpin”. They serve under Lt Dan Taylor( Gary Sinise). Bubba tragically dies in battle, and Taylor is crippled, while Forrest becomes a war hero and is awarded a Medal of Honor.

Forrest loves Jenny deeply, though by now she has become a 60’s flower girl, totally into drugs, free living and sex. While Jenny still loves Forrest, she knows that their lives are too different, and they can never meet. Watch the rest of the movie to see how Forrest becomes a successful shrimp boat owner along with Dan, how he starts off the fad for cross country running, and whether his love for Jenny succeeds.

Forrest Gump takes a look at some of the well known personalities and events in American history through his perspective. Elvis Presley is inspired by Forrest’s awkward dancing for his trademark hip gyrations, his famous “I got to pee” encounter with JFK, his meetings with President’s Johnson and Nixon. As also some events like the way he sparks off the cross country running fad, the ping pong diplomacy with China, the anti Vietnam war rallies in Washington, Watergate scandal,  the invention of the Smiley, and the “Shit Happens” bumper stickers.

What works for the movie is director Robert Zemeckis wonderful narration of the story, where he lets Gump do the talking. We see Gump’s life from his perspective, and many of the quotes do raise a chuckle. The opening scene where the feather floats across the backdrop of Savannah, Georgia, and then finally lands on Forrest Gump shoes, before he picks it up, is superbly shot.
Some of my other favorite scenes in the movie

  • Forrest  helping out his co soldiers shot in an ambush in Vietnam, and trying to get back Bubba, only to find he is dead.
  • Forrest escaping from the bullies by running, and then wandering into the football match.
  • Forrest playing ping pong, and his becoming a ping pong champion.
  • Forrest trying to give a speech to the anti war protestors, and a policeman cutting off the mike, and when the power comes back, he says “That’s all I got to say”.
  • The scene where Forrest discovers Jenny had left him and he starts to run across the country, and people start to join him.
  • The scenes between Forrest and Jenny.

Though the movie is about Gump, the supporting characters get equal prominence too. His girl friend Jenny, his former captain Dan who later becomes his shrimp boat mate, his friend Bubba, who introduces him to shrimping, his over protective mother all these characters live with you too.

Some of my favorite Gumpisms
“Life was like a box of chocolates, you ain’s know what you are getting”.
“I, I… don’t recall what I got for  my first Christmas and I don’t know  when I went on my first outdoor    picnic. But, I do remember the first  time I heard the sweetiest voice…”
“Now, the real good thing about meeting  the President of the United States  is the food.”
“Sometime later, for no particular  reason, somebody shot that nice young  President when he was ridin’ in his    car.”
“Now can you believe it? After only  five years of playing football, I got a college degree.”
Forrest Gump has some excellent performances by the side actors, Robin Wright as Jenny, Gary Sinise as Lt Dan Taylor and Sally Field as his over protective mother are all top notch. But of course the strength of Forrest Gump is Tom Hanks. To call his performance brilliant would be an understatement, its one of the best you ever see. His slow Southern drawl, his awkward way of walking, his expressions, the way he slurs his speech, one of the finest performances in a long long time.

Of course the movie does have it’s draw backs, it could have done with some crisp editing, it just drags at some places, and  the climax in particular. Also the way it tries to dumb down serious issues like the anti war protests and the 60’s counter revolution some how did not gel with me, though I am not exactly a liberal. But still I would any day recommend this movie for it’s Gumpisms and of course Tom Hanks.

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