Thursday, 6 October 2011

My name's Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.

No 240 - Forrest Gump
Director - Robert Zemeckis

This was the film that won 'Best Film' in 1994, beating both Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption, two films which can be described as gritty fantasy (whether the fantasy comes from Tarantino's sense of myth or from the uplifting suspension of disbelief which is there in King's story)
So does it deserve it?

Short answer is no....
But that isn't to say that Forrest Gump is a bad film - in fact I've been looking forward to having the excuse to rewatch it, because I have fond memories of the film - and it is very clever, and really quite enjoyable. It is also drowning in saccharine, self importance and sentimentalism.

But what works?

This is a complex story - it is the story of America during a messed up time, where they were dealing with paranoia, racism, wars and protests. The aspirations of the country are muddled and the way the country goes about it is messy. Yet we are anchored with Gump. Forrest is a simple man - both in mental capacity and in needs. He doesn't seem to want anything (except maybe for Jenny to be happy) and he just bumbles through life and yet through him we experience so much.
It seems that Gump (or at the very least Gump's family) are directly involved in important moments of history. There are the small moments (his influences on popular culture - from Elvis through to 'Shit Happens' via 'Imagine' are all sublime) and then there are the big moments.
The CGI is becoming a bit more noticeable now, as they manipulate the mouths of old stock footage, but still.... kudos to Zemeckis for USING old stock footage and then tweaking and cheating with CGI. Scenes like this still amuse and still look pretty impressive (even if the voices aren't always 100%)

This tweaking with CGI and with American history also helps create my next point:

The film may really stay in 3 areas (Alabama, Washington and 'Nam) - but the sense of scale is massive. From the explosions and helicopters whooshing past in Vietnam through to the massive rally you see in the picture above and the hurricane which affects Gump's shrimping business - This is a large story, and whilst it is told on a small, one person scale - the film remembers that the large scale shenanigans need to be shown, even if in the background.

I wish to end on a point of characters. I, personally, find Forrest really grating. His slow southern drawl (mixed with the fact that he is slightly retarded) just makes everything he says ponderous and dull... but because he is surrounded by so many interesting moments, you forget. The real star of the show is:

Dan Taylor has the greatest character arc. A brilliant character arc... The Vietnam officer who is stripped of everything and has to learn again what life is about. We see him at his very lowest, we see him happy (for several different reasons). He's important, because with the exception of maybe death, I don't think Gump ever truly realises that bad things happen to people.... Lt Dan is there to be the man that had to rebuild his life, and climb out of his own self destructive descent.

And on the topic of Self Destructive Descent

Now.... I understand the point of Jenny, she is an interesting and pivotal plot point. She provides the motivation for a lot of Gump's actions, and her character (particularly her sexual awareness and drug use) is a great dichotomy to Gump's utter naivety throughout.
The thing is.... I only cared about Jenny when she was a little girl and at the hands of her abusive father. The character is one who is drawn to the safety of Gump and his incredibly loving and busy household....
But as soon as she becomes Robin Wright I just lost interest... I never felt anything for Jenny. She was moving from one terrible decision to another (the direct opposite of Gump's life) but I never felt for her the way that Zemeckis wanted me to.

And that... brings me to the real issue of the film.

For all the interesting moments, for all the nice nuances which have been brought to the story - the film is too eager to thrust mawkish sentimentality and over-sincere characters at you. And the freaky robot child that is Haley Joel Osmond.

I could do with fewer tearful speeches around gravestones, and more of the story of America...

And that's all I really have to say about that.