I cried real tears
- when I saw Forrest Gump for the first time, in the darkened chamber of an echoing movie theater. The end of the movie, moving toward its inevitable climax, was like the beautiful sorrow of life itself — and it gave me the sense that yes, this is how a drama should be made.
- Forrest Gump is the story of a mentally retarded man who goes through life (living just in time to serve in the Vietnam War) having truly remarkable encounters. From the time he says “life is just a box of chocolates” in his slow, syrupy but good-natured voice, Gump (a genial Tom Hanks) wins us over. I am a dangerous motherfucker, but even though I can dismiss lots of people, I have a natural sympathy for the handicapped and the wheelchair-bound. I think they have a lot of courage and enhance a society immeasurably (although too many of them choke up a society, as is the case in the sidewalks of Hamilton, where I live, with its excessive motorized scooters).
- The movie starts with a sluttish mother selling her ass to get her boy Gump what he needs. Gump is handicapped with leg braces that support him but make it difficult to run or even walk — but in the end he breaks free and learns to sprint.
- As he grows up, fast and hectic-hearted, he proves a unique but intuitive boy with a strangely convincing view of the world. As in many other works of art, the mentally slow are presented as being more truthful and in tune with the universe. This gives them the opportunity to play the part of the boy in “The Emperor Has No Clothes” or the moralist in “The Stand” (M-O-O-N, that spells Tom Cullen.) When Forrest Gump runs through the jungle of Vietnam, racing back and forth with the wounded bodies of his warmates, he is a hero, and returns to America to found a shrimp-hauling company with a bubba negro pal of his.
- Real historical video has been taken in the movie and Tom Hanks, a.k.a. Gump, has been spliced in, so you see Gump playing ping pong or meeting a president — this seems so natural on the screen, like The Watchmen‘s use of famous people or The One juxtaposing Al Gore and George Bush. The use of real video makes any story seem more real (tip to aspiring directors and writers). Video is truth, and the truth of the matter is that reality can steal from our souls, by staring us in the face with things we hate to see.
- Forrest Gump is a person, like so many characters, who has more feeling, greater emotional range, than the average audience member. One can imagine a fat couple from Iowa, stolid, Germanic, seeing Gump and enjoying it but not being able to express their hearts like him away from the screen. If they were to meet Gump, they would dismiss him like a lover they rejected, but in their hearts they would never forget him, because he was greater than them.
- Names have power (see Star Wars “Vader”; “Dagobah”; “Skywalker”). Hearing “Forrest Gump” you think of that piece of crap on the floor of a verdant woodland, something to scrape off and with a mue of disgust on the face forget. Like any name though, it can acquire its own meaning and imagery with artistic license. The name “Gump” becomes courageous, smart in a practical way, humbly fucked-up. “Gump” becomes a mirror reflection, “Gump” becomes an avatar. The name is like the tunnel the heroes of Terminator rest in on the run from the machine — you can see a light at the end of it.
- Tom Hanks, the actor, was a wise, sharp businessman. Rather than take a flat fee, he agreed to a percentage take of the film — and it was an explosive worldwide blockbuster. He grew richer from that one artistically successful endeavor than anything else, and made a name for himself as a versatile and charmingly watchable actor.
- It is hard to remember that before this film Hanks was totally forgettable. Trained as a comedian, he was like the jumping-around monkey that all audiences dismiss comics as until they master drama heart-touchingly. Remember how Jim Carrey was treated like shit (same old same old comedian’s fate) until the Golden Globes showed him a little love. For Hanks, without Carrey’s powerful comic mind, the invisibility and walk-away-from-it-ness was much more brutal. Without Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks would never have been later tapped for The Da Vinci Code, and the Apollo 13 movie, and his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame would have been rather perfunctory.
- We can see that romantic love wins out, in the movies at least, between wildly divergent intellectual levels, a bright woman who bears Forrest’s son and the defective himself, who sinks emotion into a thing he barely understands. Like a magnetic compass trying to find the true north of Truth and Beauty, his limited-mind coupled with an expansive-heart is unable to settle on the right direction. For all his right moves, his mind guarantees his life and adventures will end in tragedy, even with the help of the right screenwriter. This is part of what makes us cry.
- It is a great thing to find a movie that can make you weep. Like finding a sweater in the woods, a beautiful piece of cashmere you shouldn’t take but is too perfect to be left behind and wasted, we take a piece of the movie and make it part of ourself. This is the advantage of movies over all other art forms. They last literally eternally. 500 movies can make a permanent presence lasting the ages equal to the greatest Roman conqueror. Terminator, Alien, Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest will all last long ages thanks to their magical writing, wonderful acting, surreal special effects, and dreamlike convincingness that takes their every word as being as real as the next day’s schedule we have planned — add Forrest Gump to the list of movies that will last.