Forrest Gump (1994) directed by Robert Zemeckis
We have mentioned Forrest Gump three times in our reviews on this blog but have managed to not re-watch the film – until now. We sat through it the other day, because Nick somehow got in the mood for borrowing it off a friend... a mistake, I'm sure he'll admit. So now I will have to come clean about this bad film and its important influence on my education – I was 12 when I first saw the movie.
All in all Forrest Gump has not aged well. Forrest Gump is a bad bad movie – it condescends on American history, it looks at people with disabilities through a patronizing and cruel gaze (it's OK for example for the beautiful and 'normal' Jenny to just dump Forrest a million times and prick tease him and only marry him when she knows she's dying of AIDS). And while it shows that an idiot can make it to the top in almost everything in the USA, it manages to belittle the country both intentionally and unintentionally. It's not an intelligent film and while it thinks it is a sentimental movie, let me tell you it's not.
As a twelve-year-old seeing Forrest Gump was a revelation. I went with my mom and became a fanatic. I needed to have the soundtrack (I taped it from a cousine's double CD) – Mamas and Papas was great, The Eagles I hated...These cassettes were my first encounter with the pop culture of the 1960s and the 1970s (in a conscious and self-found manner). (Yes, that's just the sad reality for a girl born in the early 80s, lets not pretend otherwise.) The one minute version of American history, which Forrest Gump offered through its simplistic protagonist was all I needed to realize that I wanted to move to the USA. I also wanted to be a hippie girl. Unfortunately, I remember the film by heart – it reminds me of the clumsy dreaming child I was and of the fact that when I was growing up, I heard the story of popular culture through the populist, consumerist making machine itself. Authenticity was dead long before my time.
Time is a bourgeois concept...or so someone once said. My time has been stretched to say the least. Astrid's review has been waiting for my version of events for almost a week. It's been a case of taking on too much. Yet somehow I've managed to squeeze in some movies. I've recently (this past month) watched the first three Alien films, a Jaques Tati (Mon Oncle) and some of Jurassic Park. I've also managed to squeeze in Saving Private Ryan (another Spielberg). This brings me to Tom Hanks. What a weird actor. I think when Hanks is on it, and he plays the regular guy up against it all (as in Saving Private Ryan) he's a great character actor. His filmography is littered with really poor choices or movies that looked good on paper but didn't work out for him (often with Hanks miscast): Road To Perdition, You've Got Mail, The Terminal, The Bonfire Of The Vanities (how Hanks' career survived this disaster we'll never know), Da Vinci Code and The Ladykillers. Director's have really got Hanks wrong. But then there are the Toy Story movies, Sleepless In Seattle, Philadelphia and Saving Private Ryan, here Hanks is good (even if the movies aren't). Actually, I like Tom Hanks. But Forrest Gump.
Forrest Gump is such an odd disaster that connected with so many people. Director Zemeckis had struck gold in the past with technical nous and good feeling pictures, especially Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? But Forrest Gump is just so worn. The premise that simpleton Gump is present (and sometimes responsible) at turning points of recent American history is a plot device stolen rather unashamedly from Woody Allen's almost forgotten gem Zelig (even down to placing Forrest in famous footage, Woody did this over 10 years earlier). That's just part of the lame experience. The re-staging of various periods, be it the 1960's to the 1970's is clichéd and ironic in an uncomfortable sense, and the film is barely enlivened by an over used and obvious soundtrack. This film insults unintentionally, especially in the portrayal of romance. We are supposed to feel for Forrest's yearning for the wild (?) young woman / semi whore Jenny (played by Robin Wright) – always out of Forest's reach – so little did he realize that she was a crazed junkie and hanging out with the Black Panthers!!! No really, it's funny, no? That sentimental heart, ah.
I could go on about the often seen, tired portrayal of Vietnam, the casual racism, sexism blah blah blah. At the heart of it is Hanks as Gump. It's whilst watching this terrible film, that you realize what a conservative yes-man Hanks really is. This may be his defining role, the one that added that saying to the English language. It's a movie for people who like their nostalgia mixed with light pathos, their uncomfortable history jumbled up with child-like humor so everyone can feel better about themselves. But what's wrong with that you ask? It's filth pretending to be cinema. If this is populist art it can fuck off. "run Forrest run..." goes the saying. Please do run as far away from me as possible so I don't have to watch this ever again. Shameful.