Forrest Gump (1994)


Robert Zemeckis directs Tom Hanks, Robin Wright and Gary Sinise in this biopic of a below average intelligence man who never existed but seeming came out on top of every major historical moment of recent American history. 

Like most discerning movie fans I am troubled by Forrest Gump. It won the Oscars over a slew of far better films (1994 is one of the finest Hollywood vintages – so maybe because it was the least offensive choice, the higher quality contenders split their votes into a series of minorities and Gump won by default rather than conservative reaction?) It has a despicable message, whether intentional or not, that to not question or engage intelligently with the events, corruption and changes around you is the only way to survive history. Although that isn’t actually all that terrible practical advice in this age of hollow clictivism and echo chamber politics. Shut the fuck up and eat your chocolates (“A box of”… TM). And the initial undeniable magic of seeing Hank’s nice moron blithely interacting with dead presidents, celebrities and newsreels via the power of cutting edge FX peters out a good hour before we reach the viciously saccharine conclusion. After Vietnam, Gump becomes a far less entertaining trundle, the humour drains, the comeuppance of his Jenny to AIDS… or Hep C… or whatever liberals who enjoyed themselves should die from… is treated in my mind like a victory rather than a passing. You can’t help but think it is all some blackly comic attack on the American right that was just too effective. That cruel scene where Hanks asks if his surprise son shares his deficiencies has an underlying self awareness that is cripplingly brutal for such a surface level light blockbuster. Has Gump been hiding all his stalkery, lashing out, political ambivalence behind the fact he was written off as retarded early on? As he clumsily flourishes through history taking more than his share of ice cream, Dr Peppers, shrimp and blue chip stocks, is he playing dumb to get away with it all? After all, “Stupid is, as stupid does.” We’ve all been stuck with the nutter at the bus stop who knows enough ways to manipulate the situation so you have to endure their presence, they know you are unlikely to tell them to “fuck off” so they continue to talk in a way that leaches interaction from you as they ramble.  Has Forrest figured out the game better than all of us? Perhaps that is what makes Gump the movie work. It is so poker faced it is hard to ascertain its true intent. It can be something for everyone. A melancholy comedy nostalgia road trip that it was marketed as, and made millions from. An idiocratic realignment of the American Dream concept that offends as many people as embrace it. Or simply just a nice leisurely movie with strong charming performances (Hanks, Wright and Sinise all deserve praise) and a few good gags. I remember being entertained but unimpressed by it in the cinema. I remember a New Years Eve night I spent in, watching it on telly, a mate in a similar boat on the other end of the phone line watching it across London too. We ran up our parents phone bills and chatted and enjoyed it. A communal experience, nowhere near as bad or a good as its reputation deserves. Just a well made bit of Hollywood product.



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