Sitting at a bus stop, Forrest Gump starts to take to those around him and tells a story of his life to date. His is a fairly unremarkable life that spans recent history. It begins with his childhood in Alabama and his growth from humble beginnings to take part in many memorable events in recent American history.
I saw this when it came out and have seen it several times since then. I haven't reviewed it until now because I've always felt that my views of this film were pushed one way or another by a) it winning lots of Oscars and b) everyone hammering it in comparison to Pulp Fiction. It should be judged on it's own merits, so I watched it yesterday in an attempt to do that. I felt that I could view it in one of two ways either as a comical walk through recent history or as a message.
As a special effects driven walk through recent history it is actually quite enjoyable. It does get a bit tiresome to see Forrest meet one president after another, or invent popular songs/slogans/tee shirts/ bumper stickers etc but it still works quite well. The subplot of his love for Jenny doesn't work as well in this context and actually serves only to slow things down a little and to create the cheesy climax to the film. However this subplot is the basis for the film's `message'. Jenny and Forrest both start out in the same place. Forrest works hard without questioning anything, sure he gets some tough breaks but his dogged efforts eventually work out for him. Jenny, on the other hand, gets involved in the other culture of the times be it political rebellion, drugs, music, extramarital sex etc. Her fate is less than Forrest's she dies and realises on her death dead that she should have just been clean cut like Forrest. This side of the film smacks rather heavily first of all it is all too sentimental but, more importantly, it is a clear attack on the counter cultures and a condemnation of those that are part of them.
Of course the film's humour means that the two extremes of Forrest and Jenny are also played for laughs so even a flag burning, drug user may be won over by the film before it starts to deliver it's message drop and drop. I tried just to enjoy the comic side of the film but it wasn't enough to fill the 2 hour plus run time and I started looking at the sub plot and didn't like what I saw.
The cast are all pretty OK. I don't think for a moment that Hanks deserved his Oscar, but there's nothing more can be said of that. He does do good work to play his `dumb' character so well but it shouldn't really have won no matter who else it was up against. Penn is OK but only has to play `bad' for most of the film. Sinise is pretty good value and his character is a mix, with the bitterness writ large on his life. Williamson plays another `dumb' character but does OK and Field is alright as Forrest's Mom. To be honest the cast all match the tone of the film all good people who just keep plodding along and get good results.
Overall I should take the film to be praise of an America where even those with 75 IQ's can make it, however this simply isn't true. What remains once this is rejected is the comedy of seeing Hanks inserted into archive footage (to mostly amusing effect) and a crass and obvious attack on those who would go against whatever America stands for. It's worth a watch but the crude message and effect driven humour simply didn't help me understand where all those Oscars came from.
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