Forrest Gump (1994) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Forrest Gump (1994)

When Forrest Gump came out I had no desire to see it.  It seemed a little too down home and corny for my tastes, but a cute girl I knew wanted to see the movie and asked if I wanted to come.  Even though we were just friends and going with a group, so it wasn’t a date, I couldn’t say no to a cute girl asking me to a movie.  I watched the film and enjoyed it even though I felt it was a little too long and went on with me life.   Later that year I watched a movie that could not be more different, Pulp Fiction, and was blown away.  Where Forrest Gump was sweet and old fashioned, Pulp Fiction was new, different, fresh and violent.  At awards season, the lines were drawn between the two films and I fell enthusiastically into the Pulp Fiction camp.  As Forrest Gump repeatedly kicked the ass of Pulp Fiction over and over again throughout the awards season, I started to hate the film a little more each time it won over my new favorite film.  By the time the Oscars hit, I had built up an unjust hate for Gump that it didn’t deserve. My hatred only grew when you couldn’t pass some idiot on the street without hearing “stupid is as stupid does” or “life is like a box of chocolates.”  Then I fell in love with Shawshank Redemption and I was even more dumbstruck that Forrest Gump the Oscar over BOTH of those great films.

Another reason I really started to dislike the film was it was so oversaturated in pop culture for years.  It was bad enough that people everywhere were trying to do their Forrest Gump imitations, but we also had movies frequently trying to remake the formula and flooding the theatres with sappy, hokey imposters.  The love of the movie got so bad that a tacky seafood franchise was born from the film.   I believe that in many cases when the film becomes a pop culture sensation, it is the worst thing for the film.  No matter how subtle, nuanced and layered a film might be when it becomes a sensation that taps directly into the public it is soon boiled down to its simplest form.  Three very popular and well made films all suffered the same fate as Forrest Gump, people could write countless words on Silence of the Lambs, Sixth Sense and (past 30 years at the top movie) Rain Man but the first thing that will pop in peoples mind is “hello Clarice” “I see dead people” and “Judge Wapner”.   We as a collective people might find many varied reasons why we fall in love with these films but as a collective we just remember the most basic things and nothing more.

He runs a lot in this film.

I bring this up because when I watched Forrest Gump again for this article I was reminded that it was a very well made film.  I still have problems with the movie as it is about 20 minutes too long, you never really start to like the character of Jenny and some time the writing was too simplistic.  Yet, I think I could find much more things to praise about the film than to criticize.  One major thing that has been forgotten over the last 17 years was the job that director Robert Zemeckis does with the film.  It seems the last few years that Zemeckis has fallen down a rabbit hole of motion capture films and can’t find his way out, but in the 80s and 90s he was one of the most consistent directors working.  In Forrest Gump he keeps the film moving, captures all the various time periods of the movie and oversees some great but very understated visual effects.

The acting in the film is pretty stellar too.  Everyone knows Tom Hanks performance in the film but it is mostly remembered for the situations and not the actual performance.  What I mean by this is no one talks about what Tom Hanks did with the role but the adventures Forrest Gump take.  People remember him running a lot, talking to a lot of presidents and pining after Jenny, but Hanks’ performance was so much more than that.  The scene were Forrest meets his boy and the first thing he wants to know if he is “like him” intelligence wise, Hanks has so much hurt and fear in his eyes and voice that it is hard for your heart not to break for him.  I also loved the scenes between Gump and Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise in one of his best roles) the two played off each other so well and became what each was missing with the tough love coming from Lt. Dan and the hope coming from Forrest.

My favorite character and story arc of the film.

I have changed my tune and realized there was no reason to hate Forrest Gump for all these years.  If you get past the hype, the done to death catch phrases and the cheesy aspects of the story the film is a good fairy tale with deft directing and a strong central performance from one of our times biggest actors.  Although I can concede that I have been wrong about this movie for over a decade, am I ready to say that it deserved the best picture Oscar?  Not even close, but I can easily say it should have at least been in the running.

Posted by Ryan

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