Friday, February 13, 2015

Forrest Gump (Best Picture 1994)

Full disclosure: I never liked the idea of Forrest Gump, so I never took the time to see when it was actually new. In fact, I never saw it until it came up in this review queue. When it first came out and part of its appeal was that Tom Hanks as Forrest was spliced into footage with Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon as well as with John Lennon, I resisted it. As a fan of real history I did not like the idea that we were doctoring actual footage to include fiction.

So...twenty years later I finally see the film, and I seriously have no idea what the big deal about this film is. It is awful. Take away the photo shopping of the idiot savant; let's just stick to the story. Forrest Gump the character is in all the right places at all the right times to experience or be a touch-stone for basically every important event in the Sixties and Seventies? Come on! Before I saw it I thought this film was a drama. Five minutes into it, though, I was confused. Then it became obvious that this a comedy...but I just don't "get" the joke.

Forest Gump picks up a computer graphic feather floating down to him as he waits at a bus stop. Then he starts talking, telling various people his life story.

Forrest Gump is a mildly retarded boy with leg braces. His mother runs a boarding house. His jerky movements inspires Elvis Presley to shake his hips. When his leg braces are taken off, he learns he can run fast. He is in love with the neighborhood girl, Jenny. He runs so fast that he ends up running for the University of Alabama football team. He then goes to Viet Nam, where he befriends his commanding officer, Lt. Dan, and another semi-retarded guy from Alabama, Bubba. When they are ambushed by the Viet Cong, Forrest saves Lt. Dan but Bubba dies. His speed helps him master ping-pong, so he plays for the US military team for several years. When he returns to the US he starts a shrimp company with/for Bubba's family, eventually (accidentally) creating a fortune. He returns to Alabama, where Jenny comes for a little bit but then leaves, refusing to marry him. He starts the jogging craze, then comes up with the phrases "shit happens" and "have a nice day."
Finally one of the people on the bus stop asks him what he is doing there and he admits that Jenny wrote him a letter asking him to come. So then the action switches from the past to the present, and Jenny has agreed to marry Forrest. Then she gets AIDS and dies, and the film ends with Forrest's son getting on the same school bus that he had ridden as a child.

Are you familiar with A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving, or the film version re-named Simon Birch? The main character in both has something wrong with him (short, and high-pitched voice) and all the time during the story he feels that something important is fated to happen to him. Well, I felt the same way with Forrest. He could run fast, so.....something was going to happen. He was a little bit less than normal, so.....something was going to happen. But you know what? Nothing ever did. I kept waiting for a pay-off that never came. This is just a simple story about a somewhat slow-witted individual. The end.
Besides the overall lack of a story, the other thing that really bothered me was the narrative style. Forrest tells us his life story while sitting on a bus stop bench. And then, for the last twenty minutes of the film, the narrative suddenly changes. We are now in real-time. Why in the world did we need the contrivance of the bus stop telling his story? Why couldn't it just unfold as it occurred, and then end in current day? There was no reason not to tell the straight narrative the entire time, was there? He certainly didn't learn anything from his mis-adventures, so I don't know why it wasn't just a straight forward story. Perhaps to get Tom Hanks' voice as the narrator?

I suppose I should talk about the actors and other awards. Tom Hanks won Best Actor for this, beating out Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. It also won Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Visual Effects. Greg Sinise was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his annoying portrayal of Lt. Dan, but lost to Martin Landau in Ed Wood. I thought he did an awful job as a paraplegic; he was never believable, and the film effects making his legs disappear were terrible. And Robin Wright portrays Jenny in a very re-active way. I don't know if that was the way she wanted to play her or if that is the way the character was supposed to be, but she was not very memorable.
After watching this film I have read that this is one of those films that people either love or hate. You know where I come down on that line. If you haven't seen this film yet, I suppose you should watch it. You'll know in the first half hour if you're going to like it or not.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Forrest Gump
*Academy Award Best Picture of 1994*
Produced by Wendy Finerman, Steve Tisch, and Steve Starkey
Directed  by Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay by Eric Roth
Based on the book by Winston Groom

I can't even get through the trailer. Maybe if you can you will like this film. 

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
Four Weddings & A Funeral
Pulp Fiction
Quiz Show
The Shawshank Redemption
This year I had already seen all of the other nominees but *not* the actual winner. That is a rare occurrence that will happen again in another few years. Four Weddings & A Funeral is the British comedic melodrama starring Andie MacDowell and Hugh Grant.  Quiz Show was the Robert Redford film about the TV game show scandal from the Fifties. Pulp Fiction is the classic Quentin Tarentino film starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson. Tarentino was nominated for Best Director and Jackson was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but the only major award it won was for Best Original Screenplay. And The Shawshank Redemption is the classic prison drama based on a Stephen King story. Another reason I resisted seeing Forrest Gump for so many years is because I really could not believe that Pulp Fiction or Shawshank Redemption had not won. I still find it hard to believe.

1 comment:

  1. Completely agree.Gump bores me to tears, and further promotes the idea that cleverness, intelligence and education are over-rated qualities. After all, you can achieve things just fine without them. I remember getting into a big row with someone online back in the day, when I compared it to Dumb & Dumber. ;-)