“Forrest Gump” Teaches Many Lessons, and Tom Hanks Earns Best Actor Oscar

Forrest Gump – 4 Stars (Excellent)

“Forrest Gump” begins with a feather being lifted through the air by a breeze that brings it to the feet of Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks), who is sitting at a bus stop in Savannah (GA). Gump picks it up and puts it in a “Curious George” children’s book. He then begins to tell the story of his life to the first of several people who are waiting with him for the next bus.

Some of the people are great listeners and others are not, but make no mistake about it, Gump is a master storyteller. He is simple, unpretentious, honest, not bright and full of integrity. For such a humble person, his story is almost unbelievable.

Forrest wears braces on his legs to walk in childhood, eludes the bullies who taunt him, makes friends with Jenny (Robin Wright Penn) who he will pursue his entire life, meets Elvis Presley, meets three Presidents—John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, and receives the Congressional Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam, where he saves Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise) and loses his friend, Private “Bubba” (Mykelti Williamson).

At an anti-war rally in Washington, DC he briefly reunites with Jenny, whose life is a mess after searching for fame and pursuing a hippie lifestyle. Forrest starts a table tennis craze and becomes a nationally-known ping-pong whiz, using the money he earns to start a very successful shrimp boat business with Lt. Dan, who invests their money in Apple stock and both become wealthy in the process.

He then inspires people to jog, helps an entrepreneur create the smiley face stickers, and faces the loss of his mother (Sally Field), who tells him he must work out his own destiny. Through it all, Jenny and love eludes him. Forrest lived in turbulent times.

If you are dizzy just imagining all of this, so was I. After seeing Forrest Gump the first time I was appreciative of the film’s merit, but overwhelmed by how one person could accomplish so much and be around so many famous people. After watching Forrest Gump 3 more times, I got over it and now only sing its praises.

Eventually Jenny sees Forrest running on television and writes him a letter to come see her. When he does, he discovers that Jenny has a son and is very sick. She asks Forrest to marry her, and soon after he does, she dies. He learns that he is the father of her child, and commits to raising him. When young Forrest gets on the bus for his first day of school, the white feather falls from the Curious George book he is carrying, is caught in the breeze and drifts skyward.

If you are wondering about the feather, it was real, but its performance in the movie was computer-based. The feather is important because it raises the question of whether we are all floating around accidental-like on a breeze, or if we each actually have a destiny. Forrest surmises that perhaps it is both.

Everything that happens to Forrest Gump is worth seeing, and much of what happens teaches us important lessons in life. This is a love story, a story of relationships and the story of one person in a very big world that is sometimes almost impossible to understand. All that is good and much that is bad is covered in the film.

To appreciate where Forrest Gump is coming from, learn from these memorable lines in the film:

1) Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: “Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?” Forrest Gump: “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir.”

2) Forrrest Gump: (describing Vietnam) “We was always taking long walks, and we was always looking for a guy named Charlie.”

3) Jenny Curran: “Have you ever been with a girl, Forrest?” Forrest Gump: (nervously) “I sit next to them in my Home Economics class . . .”

4) Jenny Curran: “His name’s Forrest.” Forrest Gump: “Like me.” Jenny Curran: “I named him after his daddy.” Forrest Gump: “He got a daddy named Forrest, too?” Jenny Curran: “You’re his daddy, Forrest.”

5) Jenny Curran: “Do you ever dream, Forrest, about who you’re gonna be?” Forrest Gump: “Who I’m gonna be?” Jenny Curran: “Yeah.” Forrest Gump: “Aren’t—aren’t I going to be me?”

6) Forrest Gump: “I’m not a smart man . . . but I know what love is.”

7) Forrest Gump: “Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” This line was voted 40th among the Top 100 Movie Quotes by the American Film Institute. In 2007, The AFI rated Forrest Gump as the 76th Greatest Movie of All Time.

8) Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Tom Hanks patterned his accent after young Forrest (Michael Conner Humphreys, who actually talked that way).

Forrest Gump was an immensely successful film, with a production cost of $55 million and a worldwide gross of $677+ million. After its release in 1994, it became the fastest grossing Paramount film to reach the $100 million, $150 million and $200 million marks, and passed $250 million in 66 days.

Even more important, Forrest Gump won 6 Oscars at the Academy Awards—for Best Picture, Tom Hanks for Best Actor, Robert Zemeckis for Best Director, Eric Roth for Best Screenplay based on Winston Groom’s novel, Arthur Schmidt for Best Film Editing, and Ken Ralston, George Murphy, Stephen Rosenbaum and Allen Hall for Best Visual Effects.

Forrest Gump also picked up another 7 Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Gary Sinise), Best Original Musical Score (Alan Silvestri), Best Set Decoration, Best Cinematography (Don Burgess), Best Makeup, Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects Editing.

Among its other 32 wins and 38 nominations were 7 Golden Globe nominations and wins for Best Actor, Best Director and Best Picture.

As is true with just about any other award-winning production, many famous professionals passed on the opportunity to be part of the success. Terry Gilliam and Barry Sonnenfeld were offered the chance to direct the film. Bill Murray was considered for the role of Forrest, Chevy Chase turned down the role of Forrest, and three others turned down the role of Bubba—David Alan Grier, Dave Chappelle and Ice Cube.

Tom Hanks said that he would make the film only if all the events that took place were historically accurate. For example, when Gump calls to report the Watergate burglary, the security guard on duty answers the phone by saying, “Security, Frank Willis.” Willis was the actual guard on duty that night who discovered the break-in that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency.

Tom Hanks is one incredible, bankable actor. While Forrest Gump grossed $677 million and is far and away his biggest box office success, he has been involved in 19 other films grossing $100+ million, and he ranks 3rd among all actors appearing in films with $3.3 billion generated.

Forrest Gump was directed by Robert Zemeckis, with the screenplay written by Eric Roth based on Winston Groom’s novel. I really liked Forrest Gump and I think you will too. If you have seen it before, revisit it again and relive the magic moments of hope, courage, patience, love, understanding and compassion—all of which give special meaning to our life.

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