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Reviews Comments: A Somehow Underrated Oscar Winner Forrest Gump film/book review by Lindaeus

I could probably never have a favourite movie. I do naturally like some movies more than others, but since what I consider to be good can be anything from Chaplin to anime, choosing one movie to stand above the rest would not only be impossible but also pointless. My interests are, quite simply, too wide.

If I had to pick the one movie which I would have the least problems with to call the greatest film of all time, however, it would be Forrest Gump, because it succeeds in a way that is surprisingly hard to do: it's a smart movie that's also very human.

In order for me to declare something great, it must fulfil two criteria: it has to be both very clever and very engaging. Taxi Driver is a smart flick, but beyond its protagonist it's not terribly engaging (yes, I know none of you agree, you can sit down); likewise, Haruhi Suzumiya is a likable series, but it's nothing overly intelligent (ditto). Forrest Gump, on the other hand, presents a profound story from the eyes of one of the most charming characters of cinema, the eponymous Forrest Gump. The movie changes in mood from triumphant to bittersweet and back again along with Forrest, and very effecticely so, but there's more to it than simply the tale of a mentally handicapped man: its message of life as a box of chocolates rings strikingly true (well, unless one gets overly technical), making the film meet both of the aforementioned criteria with flying colours. Of course, the film has other strengths as well (the acting comes to mind), but these are by far the most important aspects.

So how is the film an "underrated Oscar winner", then? The reason I see it as one is because the fact remains that Forrest Gump has taken a quite a bit of criticism for allegedly promoting apathy or not thinking for oneself. While I can see how one would draw that conclusion, I full-heartedly disagree: it's true that Forrest is not particularly bright, but he never does anything just because someone tells him to do so. It is shown plenty of times that he has his own opinions, e.g. when he saves the lives of his squadmates.

Forrest Gump is a masterpiece, and a clear reminder of the fact that a movie can be intelligent without being devoid of charm.


  • DeviousRecital
  • 31st Jan 12
The movie is good, without a doubt, but any problems it does have do stem from the protagonist. I think the big issue is just how simple Forrest is. He hardly ever judges anyone, and he never does learn his lesson about letting Jenny handle herself. Realistic as it may be, it doesn't make Forrest altogether too interesting. You know how he's going to react in most situations, even if you don't know how it will play out. The one exception was Forrest's random three-year run, where you knew neither. But anyway, as far as classics from that era, I think The Shawshank Redemption is a bit better.

And I probably wouldn't say Taxi Driver or Haruhi Suzumiya are the greatest examples of their respecitve mediums to be used as baselines of comparison, but that's just me.
  • Lindaeus
  • 31st Jan 12
I'd actually say Forrest is far from uninteresting simply because you can read him like a book. You truly get to know him as a character, which I vastly prefer over a character that exists only to be a living enigma. Furthermore, it all goes back to what I said about being both interesting and engaging (that is to say, likable): if you can only be one, be likable. I know this is just my opinion, but it is my review after all.

As for my comparisons, I can only compare what I've actually seen, and these were the best examples I could think of. Exactly what is compared in this case is not really important anyway, just what I thought of it.
  • Tomwithnonumbers
  • 1st Feb 12
I have to admit I find the flaw in Forest Gump (the movie and the person) is that it's basically all too nice. Nothing really makes real world sense and I feel a lot like that speech in Tropic Thunder, that we feel comfortable watching a film about a person with learning difficulties, only because he doesn't actually have them. Learning difficulties are unpleasant and make life hard? Learning difficulties can make people less... able? Screw that Forest is the World Champion at Ping-Pong, a medalled Vietnam Vet, a savvy business investor, owner of a multi-million enterprise. Gets the girl, is eventually adored by all... etc

I know it's the point and I'm not even saying this would offend people with actual problems, I can't account for other peoples opinion and I imagine it could be quite cool or just funny and straight like it's meant to be.

But it just leaves me feeling a little... meh. Some of it is in that anti-Spielberg, anti-sitcom, snarky British The Office and Eastenders style coming through. But some of it is a discomfort that they chose to make a film about a difficult subject and in the end totally ignored the difficulty. I'm thinking similar to another fake film that's being slammed in the comments section at the moment. It's like they're making a film about a slave, except actually his life is super-awesome and everyone respects him and although he gets some gripe, they're from nasty people who the slave handily but justly stitches up and then the give the slave a medal and he settles down on his old farm with a wife and some children running round the yard...

When the KKK still lynched his people just for looking the wrong way 100's of years later
  • Lindaeus
  • 1st Feb 12
It's true that Forrest ends up quite fortunate in the end, but that's kind of the point. How his life unfolds is neither because nor in spite of his mental disability, but because "life is like a box of chocolates": it's impossible to predict, and all one can do is make the best of what one has, something Forrest obviously always tries to do. He just so happens to be lucky, and while I understand that this could be considered annoying or too convenient, I don't think it's trying to imply anything other than the aforestated unpredictability of life. The fact that Forrest has an IQ of 75 is part of his character, not the message of the film (at least not directly).
  • Tomwithnonumbers
  • 1st Feb 12
No that's wrong, Forest is not just lucky. He is factually the best American Footballer (or in the best 15 whatever) in America. He is factually the best Ping-Pong player in the world. He may not of known what he was doing in the war, but he was a) the bravest person there and b) the most physically capable and active of all the soldiers in his team.

More than that, the success of his business wasn;t just luck, he just happened to be the best prawn fisher in the world. He's the best sprinter etc

What's more his IQ is not an aspect of his character but firmly the centre of the film. Wikipedia Synopsis: 'The story depicts several decades in the life of Forrest Gump, a naive and slow-witted native of Alabama who witnesses, and in some cases influences, some of the defining events of the latter half of the 20th century'

Tv Tropes synopsis: 'It's the tale of a good-natured but simple-minded man touching important events and people from The Fifties to The Eighties'

IMBD synopsis: 'Forrest Gump, while not intelligent, has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love, Jenny, eludes him.'

If you gave a description of this movie that did not feature Gump's intelligence, you would be giving a very very poor description. That's just 'part of his character' in fact there was no other feature of his character you'll notice that was mentioned in every one of those synopsis' apart from maybe being lucky. Even being lucky is less central to his character. There are some scenes in the film that don't feature his lucky attribute. Every single scene focuses on his intelligence. You might as well say that A Beautiful Mind wasn't about paranoid schizophrenia but just 'part of his personality'. Or that Schindler's List wasn't about concentration camps but it was just 'Part of the events surrounding Schindler'

I want to agree with you, I definitely don't want to disagree with you. I know what my opinion is and I am firm in it and my experience of that film isn't going to change because someone mentioned something, but I know it's not orthodox and it's not how everyone experiences the film (although as the Tropic Thunder speech shows lots and lots of people do have the same view as me) and I know there are counter arguments. I know it's about luck and it's not meant in a bad way, but some things are undeniable, one of those is that Forrest is exceptionally gifted, and the other is that him being mentally handicapped is a fundamental feature of the film.

This is getting away from my opinion, and this you can debate with me if you want but 'all one can do is make the best of what one has' isn't really what happens in the film (this you can disagree with it's not related to above). Because all you can do is make the best of being the most famous person on TV. The man who receives the highest honour in the country, a multimillionaire, the best sportsman in the world. Was it really hard to make the best of that situation? Well Forrest, you're the most gifted pingpong player the world has ever seen, but you'll have to just make the best of it and go to china

It's not even about life being unpredictable, because the film in noway reflects real life. It's not showing life is unpredictable, because it's all absurb. Gee life is unpredictable, you never know when you going to go from one of the richest investors in the country, to leader of your own prawn business, to the man who tells the president he needs the toilet. Gee whizz.

I hope you'll not take the last two as actual criticisms of the film. It's Fridge Logic, Fridge Logic that I believe is correct, but not Fridge Logic that spoils the film, I guess it may be why I never really associated the chocolates thing with the theme of the film, but it didn't affect my enjoyment, I guess it stopped it being a thematically tight as really good films, but my issues are with the former things and not the latter
  • Lindaeus
  • 1st Feb 12
I don't recall me saying that Forrest wasn't exceptionally gifted in many areas, but you're right in that I should have brought it up in some form. I just don't really see what the problem is. Yes, Forrest's lack of intelligence is mentioned a lot, but more because of the fact that it is a disability rather than what it actually means; it could really have been any form of negative character trait. Let's pretend for a moment that Forrest was severely depressed instead of unintelligent; you could still present a story about his life, him discovering his talents, and how unlikely it would be that he of all people ended up where he did. Forrest is intellectually challenged in the same way that Harry Potter has his mother's eyes, in that they're both important facts about the characters because of what they represent, not because of what they actually are. Harry could have inherited his mother's hair colour and it would still mean the same thematically.

I do see your point regarding Forrest's abilities and the fact that he is ridiculously good at a lot of things, but I still firmly believe that the movie is about how life is unpredictable, because throughout the film we also see the life of Jenny, who isn't exactly having a good time. She still gets her happy ending (relatively speaking) because of the choices she makes in the end, showing that even though life was hard on her she could still choose to live (of course, what happens in the end is very much out of her control, but my point stands). Forrest lives a very different life, both from the opportunities he's given and his own choices. Still, while he didn't choose to be a good sprinter, but he did choose to go back and save his army friends, including the man who wanted to die on the battlefield. The theme of life being unpredictable and downright random is present, but you have to watch both Forrest's and Jenny's sides of the story to fully see it. True, Forrest did not have to make any really difficult life choices, and he never had to make the best out of a bad situation in the same way Jenny had to, but this only punctuates how different their lives are (besides, it's not like Forrest's life is void of difficulties - he has to face the responsibility of raising a child, to name one example). The fact that "all one can do is make the best of what one has" is not as applicable if one were to see the story from Forrest's perscpective alone, however, which is something I should have clarified.

I understand why some people would be offended by Forrest's progress, and I'm just as annoyed as you are by authors (script writers, directors, etc.) thinking that something is profound because it's a little bit different from the norm (e.g. a main character with a particularly low IQ), but the reason I'm not annoyed by this film is because, as I said, Forrest's lesser intelligence is only important in what it represents.

It's obvious that we've interpreted the film in different ways. I wouldn't dream of calling you wrong for seeing a movie differently than me - be it in how to decipher it or its actual quality - I'm just saying that we will not be able to reach a consensus because it will eventually only lead to the two of us saying "well, I don't see it that way" over and over. Nevertheless, I'm very grateful that you're so willing to discuss this movie with me, and I do consider many of your points to be true. I will admit that his life does take some really absurd turns, and the movie would probably have been better if it didn't, but I have to say it makes the film rather humourous.

In short: I understand your arguments, I just don't agree with them. Let's simply agree to differ.
  • Tomwithnonumbers
  • 1st Feb 12
I'll agree with that then, there's not much more I could do than restate my opinion that I think the 'insert word I've been carefull skirting around because it's a horrible word' quality of Forrest is more than an interchangeable fault but I guess we really just have looked at this in very different ways

I will say though that, whilst I didn't mention it because it's something I fault the film for and would have spoiled my tone, a part of why I don't feel the films message exists is Jenny is pretty much kicked and dumped in the gutter whole film long until the very end and it doesn't particularly feel like it's Jenny's fault or because she's not trying to make the best of it. It's just unfortunately for her she wasn't the protagonist
  • cheesetothepower
  • 7th Feb 15
The question isn't whether Forrest is a good protagonist, but whether he is the protagonist. He is the focal character, but he goes through no character arc. Sure he did a bunch of cool stuff, but he's still the same character he was at the beginning of the film and doesn't learn anything. Jenny, on the other hand, learns to be more than what she came from, learns that she deserves respect and happiness, and goes from child, to young adult party animal, to mature adult, but ends up dying because of mistakes she made when she was younger.
  • Tomwithnonumbers
  • 8th Feb 15
:P It's always weird reading your comments from a long time ago. So much changes in the way you think over the space of 3 years.

Forest Gump is undeniably the protagonist of the film though. Protagonist means "focal character".

Just because the protagonist learns nothing and does nothing, but a side character has a proper arc and an interesting life, it doesn't mean the side character was the protagonist. It just means they probably would have made a better protagonist than the one we got :P

It's not even a Sherlock Holmes deal, where Watson is the viewpoint character but Holmes is the protagonist (because he's the focal character), because Forest Gump isn't a story about Jenny, its a story about Forest Gump and Jenny is just a character who comes in and out of that story.

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