61. Forrest Gump

The new season of House of Cards premiered today. This will lead to many people IMDB-ing its co-lead Robin Wright, and then rediscovering that Wright played Jenny in “Forrest Gump.” They’ll either take a break from House of Cards to watch Forrest Gump, which is also on Netflix, or say they’ll get back to Forrest Gump later but forget about it until it pops up on TV sometime within the next few months. But try as hard as you may, it is impossible to stay away from Forrest Gump.

We all know the tale: Forrest Gump focuses on a dimwitted man, played by Tom Hanks, as he unwittingly becomes involved in some of the key moments of the 20th century. Forrest doesn’t pay much attention to this, as he’s primarily focused on winning the affections of Jenny, a damaged but resilient woman who transitions with each decade’s fad, folk singer to hippie, hippie to Studio 54-er, and so on. The film is so overly-sentimental that it nearly sends us into diabetic shock with its sugary nostalgia. Watch where you step, because repeated viewings of this movie will cause your eyes to roll right out of their sockets onto the floor.

Despite its hokeyness, there is a certain charm to the movie, proceeding briskly with quick cuts and never losing our attention. We can jump in at any moment and never be lost, Forrest will still want Jenny, Jenny will still ignore Forrest, and he’ll still find himself shaking some President’s hand. Forrest doesn’t necessarily develop as a character since he’s already the most developed version of himself: an empathetic, friendly man who strives to do what’s right. Jenny really just plays damaged, abused woman throughout the film until its closing act. Lieutenant Dan is really the only one who we see come full circle throughout, growing as a person despite his shrinking in height.

But the film is memorable for its journey and its question of fate vs. free will. This is expressed most clearly with Lieutenant Dan’s story but is also apparent in Forrest’s journey as well: Was Forrest meant by a higher power to get into all of those history-changing situations, or was he just perennially in the right place at the right time? In the movie’s most touching scene, Forrest gives his most independent thought yet, that maybe it’s a little bit of both. It’s a good motto for the movie, too: It’s overly-nostalgic, but its still a charming ride.

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