The UnPopular Opinion: Forrest Gump
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
**** SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
I will admit that when FORREST GUMP first hit theaters in 1994, I liked it. In fact, I remember when it hit video, I had pre-ordered a VHS copy. I remember taking the movie home and unwrapping the two cassette tapes and popping them into the VCR and watching the epic tale unfold on my screen. For a thirteen year old kid who had aspirations of becoming a filmmaker, FORREST GUMP was the pinnacle of movie magic. But, something happened in the intervening years after a number of basic cable showings of the movie. The magic disappeared and as I got older, the movie did not age well along with me. Now, here I am, 18 years later, writing about how much I hate FORREST GUMP.
To sum it up, FORREST GUMP may not be an instance of going "full retard" (see TROPIC THUNDER for the full explanation), but it is pretty damn close. The tale of a mentally-challenged man who traverses the globe and stumbles into various historic events is at the very core nothing more than Oscar bait. Like LES MISERABLES this year, FORREST GUMP feels more like it was written and filmed with Academy voters in mind rather than audiences. From the sweeping score to the punctuated moments of emotional intensity, the movie leaves me feeling less and less fulfilled each time I see it.
My mama says if I get my haircut like this I will get a free dinner at Denny's.
Now, I am not heartless. I tear up when Forrest loses his mother, and Jenny, and Bubba. Even now as I write this, I can feel that emotional rush come up in my throat. That is a credit to the actors in the film. Tom Hanks is a great performer, but he has given so many better performances than this. PHILADELPHIA, CAST AWAY, and THE GREEN MILE are all favorites of mine and all feel more true than FORREST GUMP.
Director Robert Zemeckis crafted a magical story of a simple man who encounters John Lennon, JFK, Vietnam, and more while never fully understanding what scope of history he was a part of. The special effects were incredible when the film was released and they still look pretty good today, but they still feel hollow. Zemeckis eventually turned his eye for technological wizardry to the cold looks of motion capture for films like BEOWULF and THE POLAR EXPRESS, but he was so much better when his effects were subtle. There is nothing subtle about Forrest showing his ass to the President, but then again nothing about FORREST GUMP is.
This looks more realistic in a still than it does in the movie.
FORREST GUMP did give us some good things: Robin Wright looking hot, Gary Sinise playing one of the best roles of his career, the introduction of Mykelti Williamson, and Sally Field playing the strong single mother cliche. All are competent actors who give nice performances, but if you rewatch the film, each one of them feels forced. With the exception of Sinise, each character feels like a cookie cutter movie trope.
Alan Silvestri's memorable score highlighted the simple nature of the movie. What could have been a complex and humorous study of one man adrift in history instead becomes a more serious version of Steve Martin's THE JERK. Forrest is the prime example of what can be wrong with movies: a white Southerner who is dumb as dirt and yet still manages to become a multi-millionaire. To use a term that did not exist at the time FORREST GUMP was released, this movie is full of "white people problems". Like THE HELP last year, this movie is anchored by quality music, direction, and acting but still falls completely short of actually having a heart.
My wife loves FORREST GUMP. My grandmother and mom love it, too. I find myself quoting lines from it here and there ("She tasted like cigarettes", "Thought?") but just because a movie has become a part of pop culture does not make it a great movie. Like CRASH, THE KING'S SPEECH and TITANIC, FORREST GUMP was made deliberately to cater to those who vote for the Oscars.
Grizzly Adams DID have a beard!
Taken as segments or moments, scenes from FORREST GUMP are excellent. From the montage of Hanks jogging across America to the Vietnam sequence, there are portions of the movie that work incredibly well. Alas, the movie as a whole does not. Even when we get to the end and Forrest begins to break down as he asks if his son has the same disabilities as him, it is hard to get past Tom Hanks peeking out a little. Through the entire movie, Forrest is Forrest, but at that moment the character breaks,
Last year, the Library of Congress decided to preserve FORREST GUMP as an important and significant American film. Outwardly, yes, it does exude all of the hallmarks of a great American movie, but it fails in the Capra-esque positivity it tries to force down the viewer's throat. Through all of the sadness and trials that Forrest experiences, none of them feel at all perilous. You never think that Forrest won't make it through unscathed. That is my biggest problem with the movie. If Forrest had actually suffered, his success would have been all the more powerful. Instead, we are passive viewers to the movie as much as Forrest himself is to history.
Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!