Dir: Robert Zemeckis (Romancing the Stone; Back to the Future; Who Framed Roger Rabbit?; Cast Away; The Polar Express)
When two different people, without even consulting with each other, both say within the span of a week "I really should watch that movie again," then that's enough for me to do so. I had not seen Gump in many years, but the one time I did see it I remembered liking it more than my cynical predisposition would have predicted. On further review, maybe cynicism has something to it.
Forrest Gump is certainly a film to be reckoned with, with much to like about it. Hanks' performance is so unique that it still colors popular culture, the catch phrases as much about his delivery as their syntactical zing. On an off year in terms of Best Actor nominees, he is the proper choice. Sally Field is also fine in a supporting role as the bedrock mother. Robin Wright is not as good as her chraracter is written, and I think Gary Sinise overplays his role as the army lieutenant who must adjust to life as an amputee.
The effects mesmerized me when I saw them, but like all special effects this side of Star Wars they have not aged well. The tech is just too fast for these sorts of techiques to stand the test of time. Star Wars is the one exception because it essentially exhausted one technology, forcing the development of an entirely new medium. Gump talking to LBJ? We can do that sort of thing on our home computers ten year later (slight over statement, but I exaggerate to make a point).
And therein lies the flaw with the film. It puts a lock of stock in the novelty of this historical interpollation. But once we know where that is going, and fail to "oooh" and "aaah" at it, I found that it dragged the movie down. Often, I found myself marking time until Zemeckis returned to the backbone of the story, the narrative that so impressed me at first viewing.
The love story remains the brilliant element, itself worthy of consideration for best picture, although I think Paul would agree with me that the real winner should have been Ed Wood, and the rest of you would go for Pulp Fiction. The self dectructive tendencies of Robin Wright mirror the excesses of the time period under examination and erect a barrier to love and contentment. Gump is the embodiement of acceptance and humility, Jenny the personification of restless longing and recklessness. The script is correct in denying them any long term cohabitation, their only hope being a synthesis into something new. The story is unflinching and almost manipulative in building sentiment through our recognition of these two approaches to life. I found it then very moving then, and did once again. The history stuff is all secondary, something to smile at while we experience the love story.
One could make a political critique of the film, that it demonzies the counterculture and lionizes traditional families and simple, traditional southern ways. But to do so would be too simple itself. Gump is an archetype, a metaphor for one of the extremes of life. He is not a role model, as the magical nature of his life quickly confirms. This is a mythical tale, one of resolving dualities. If we have no place for such stories within our ideological apparatus, then our politics have negated one of the most important and hermeneutic narrative devices we have.
I applaud Forrest Gump for its story. I mourn the loss of the impact of its direction. Everyone should see it once, and then they may move on.