Forrest Gump is a captivating movie released in 1994. While the movie was not critically acclaimed, it has been a fan favorite since its release and there are many good reasons why.
At the start of the movie, Forrest is a grown man at a bus stop detailing his life to strangers waiting with him for their own bus. His first line is “My momma always said that life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” This line ends up being the driving force of the entire movie. Forrest begins by telling how his mother tries to get admitted him to his public elementary school in Greenbow, Alabama. He has trouble with his admissions given his extremely low IQ score. However, he eventually does. His intelligence is a reoccurring topic within the movie as he is often belittled for his lack of outward intelligence to which he typically replies, “Stupid is as stupid does.” He doesn’t say this an excuse. He is attached to this saying as this is what his mother has instilled in him. Forrest idolized his mother. She didn’t tell Forrest he was special given his handicap, but rather that he was just like everybody else. This challenges the societal view of what we typically tell our children. This different perspective removes Forrest from thinking of himself of having any illegitimate label.
When Forrest attends the public school bus for the first time, he is rejected a seat by everyone excluding Jenny, who turns out to be the love of his life. Jenny suffered from severe sexual abuse from her father where she often prayed as a little girl to fly away as bird would. She dreamed of being a famous singer; However, her trauma followed her for the duration of her life and she never could fill that dream. After Forrest graduates from the University of Alabama, he enlists in the military to serve in the Vietnam War and joins the military on whim immediately following his graduation. In basic training he meets his “best good friend”, Bubba. Bubba had aspirations of following his family’s footsteps in being a shrimping boat captain. However, he died in combat during an attack in Vietnam. While in Vietnam, Forrest’s authority is Lt. Dan Taylor. Lt. Dan’s life mission was to die as a war hero in war and live his destiny as each of the men in his family has died in every single American war. His legs get blown off during the same air raid that killed Bubba, be he survives. He was never able to do what he had planned. Lt. Dan and Forrest become friends after the war. Why is it that each of the main people in Forrest’s life (excluding his mother) each had a plan for their life that they couldn’t fulfill? Forrest fulfilled each of their “destinies.” He became a famous ping-pong player for the Army, a multimillionaire shrimping boat captain, and a war hero since he saved the lives of many during his time in Vietnam. However, when he sees everyone else’s idea of destiny, he becomes concerned about his own since he has no preconceived ideas about his. Just before his mother passes he asks “What’s my destiny Momma?” To which she replies, “Well, I happened to believe you make your own destiny. You have to do the best with what God gave you…You’re gonna have to figure that out for yourself. Life is a box of chocolates, Forrest. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Eventually, Jenny and Forrest have a child and get married, but Jenny soon dies of HIV/AIDS. At her graveside, Forrest finally comes to terms with living out a destiny or creating his own. He decides that it must be both and that he created his own reality with the help of divine intervention along the way. This is reminiscent of the classic old Southern Christian issue of predestination versus free-will.
While critics may claim that Forrest’s life is too cookie-cutter, unrealistic, American idealism based, the dramatization is not lacking its point. There is so much we can learn from Forrest. He took every opportunity life threw at him with a gracious, free-flowing attitude about his life.
So, my conclusion is that Forrest Gump is an inspiring movie with characters that viewers can sympathize with and learn from. While it does have a plot that is not necessarily realistic, I believe that is the point. Viewers can learn that by leaving behind strict, rigid life plans it is more simple to give oneself grace than feeling restricted by one’s own individual rope and accomplish the impossible.