“Life is like a box of chocolates…”
20 years ago one of the greatest actors of all time, gave one of the greatest performances of all time in one of the greatest movies of all time. It’s hard to believe that Forrest Gump turned 20 this year but it’s very easy to believe just how influencial it has become – not just in my life – but in cinematic history.
Based on a 1986 little known book by American novelist Winston Groom, it told the story of a simple man who ended up living a far from simple life. Starting from his bullied schooldays to confused college years, onto his heroic stint in the U.S. Army and eventually into his later life as a caring father, with a little bit of shrimp boating and ping pong in between. Oh and plenty of running. Much of his life story was told through flashbacks in the backdrop of real-life events like the Vietnam War, J.F.K’s assassination and the Watergate scandal.
Upon release Forrest Gump immediately garnered high praise from critics and fans alike and has become an iconic American classic. Not only was the screenplay written with love and integrity – no matter how fictionally complex it may be – but Tom Hanks manages to bring to life a character so real that by the time you finish watching you truly feel like you’ve gained a lifelong friend. I have absolutely zero hesitation in stating that nobody else could’ve played the role with as much genuine plausibility and devotion. There is simply no other actor in the world that can make me both laugh and cry by delivering just one solitary line of dialogue. It is the performance of a lifetime.
I’m not normally one to glorify quotes and one-liners but Forrest Gump is full of them. I’m pretty sure we’ve all shouted “Run Forrest Run” on more than one occasion to someone running past us and the philosophical advice given to Forrest by his mother involving a box of chocolates…well you know how that goes don’t you?
In many ways it’s the perfect movie and is definitely the most important movie I have ever had the privilege of watching. I was only 11 at the time of it’s release and I had very little interest in movies. I didn’t actually get around to first watching it until a year or so later. Despite thoroughly enjoying it the first time around, it wasn’t until the second viewing – about two or three years later – that I knew I was a changed man. It’s influence still lingers deep within my consciousness. It might’ve been the first movie I can confess to learning some important life lessons from. The soundtrack certainly had a huge effect on me. At the time I had just discovered hip-hop (way before it would become the norm) when somehow the magic of The Doors lifted me into a whole new world. Hip-hop was still an extremely prominent part of my life back then but American bands like Creedance Clearwater Revival and Simon & Garfunkel were beginning to take over my life. I’m not sure which came first for me, the movie or the soundtrack, but it doesn’t matter. All that I’m sure of is that they were both two of the most important aspects of my life.
Movies tend to get judged on three categories; writing, acting and entertainment factor. Forrest Gump ticks all the boxes but what makes it so iconic is the fourth box, longevity. Much of what makes Forrest Gump a magical movie is that it feels timeless. In another 20 years I can see myself sitting down with a large bowl of popcorn – or a box of chocolates – and laughing and crying all over again.
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter