Forrest Gump

Robert Zemeckis (of Back to the Future fame) has collected another feather for his cap with his direction of this movie starring Tom Hanks as this childishly naive idiot savant. Though that description of Forrest Gump might be inadequate.

Gump, gifted with a low IQ which lets him be adorably childlike even as he grows up, leads a very charmed life: a mother who loves him immensely and who sleeps with the school principal in order to make sure her child has the best education, a miraculous incident that eliminates the need for him to have braces for his legs, a childhood girlfriend who remains faithful to him till the end, surviving Vietnam with a medal, and, in general, a propensity for turning everything that happens to him into good.

I wonder what the movie is trying to say. From one perspective, it implies that intelligence (as measured by IQs and the general idea of what "smart" is) is a very unnecessary trait. But I think one can look beyond that and say that childlike innocence, which can be considered stupid, has its rewards. Throughout the movie, Gump is in situations where he is harassed by other people but he never takes offense (except, of course, when his girl Jenny is being abused) at any of the insults thrown at him. He is indeed not completely stupid, even though he is portrayed as such, since he can re-assemble guns at high speed, run like crazy, play ping-pong like a maniac, and so on.

The fact that Gump doesn't take offense, I think, is what keeps him content. He becomes a millionaire, but gives most of the money away. He is honest and open and this, along with his Alabama accent, endears him to the audience. But this gets tiresome after a while (especially after 2 hours). I thought the movie was overly long, but that's the only negative thing I have to say.

Gump rubs elbows with many famous personalities over the last half of the century including Elvis Presley and Nixon, thanks to computer technology (General Dan doesn't really lose his legs either---they are just erased and the background is then touched up by using computer graphics programs). The account of how Gump is responsible for the gyrations that is so characteristic of Presley is very telling of the motives of this movie. Gump is contrasted to the famous males, who are idols (in some cases) in today's society, and it appears as though he is better off in comparison: Gump's choices in life seem to determine his niceness (he goes to Vietnam, keeps his promises ("a promise is a promise"), harbours no ill-feelings or grudges, and is not greedy with fame or money) and successes. Contrast this to the choices his lifetime girl friend Jenny makes: she wants to be famous and rich, but ends up being a druggie. The people she is surrounded by are all of a dubious nature: a sexually-abusive father, a show audience more interested in her naked body than her folk-music playing, and an abusive hippie-boyfriend.

The traditional male heroes that we have had are all dysfunctional in some respect or another and we are lost without heroes, as Bloom points out. Gump is a new kind of a role-model; he's A Nice Boy and everyone knows they're hard to find. As one reviewer said: "Today the last American hero is a Tom Hanks character with a small IQ".

Forrest Gump is the runaway hit movie of this summer. Many people claim it gets them in touch with their "inner child". Some reviewers attack it for the view that low IQ is a necessity for maintaining the child-like attitude Gump has. Gump never grows up or matures in the movie. He never becomes a man and remains a boy throughout. It is implied, at least, that his "stupidity" is what allows him to do this. This may or may not be true, but it is just a movie in the end. Most people in his position would not be so fortunate as he. And what about the converse: if you are intelligent, does this mean you cannot be child-like forever? That's not true, and I think Zemeckis did a good job in showing that anyone can retain their inner child as long they never grow up or become mature.

There's room for much analysis here, but the plot isn't new. Peter Sellers did this a long time ago.

"I'm tired now. I think I'm going home." --Forrest Gump
"Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get." --Forrest Gump
"Stupid is as stupid does." --Forrest Gump
"I guess sometimes there just aren't enough rocks." --Forrest Gump

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala ||