Forrest Gump is probably one of the most interesting winners in this category. Like Rain Main, it can definitely be considered a modern classic – who doesn’t know about life and the box of chocolates, Forrest running or the flying feather? It’s critical acclaim combined with huge financial success should, by all accounts, make this one of the most popular Best Picture winners. But as beloved as Forrest Gump seems to be by moviegoers, the Internet is usually less kind. And I am no difference.
I don’t judge Forrest Gump on its competition at the Oscars. To be honest, I probably haven’t seen Pulp Fiction in 15 years and barely remember it. But even on its own, Forrest Gump is a movie that, for me, is far for perfect. And even far from very good.
First of all, I have to say that I hate Tom Hanks. Yes, I do. Mr. Perfect, Mr. Nice-Guy, the All-American noble everyman. But for some strange reason, his performance is probably still the only aspect of Forrest Gump I truly appreciate. I certainly don’t like the character but I won’t deny that Tom Hanks created something unique and powerful here. I would have thought that watching Tom Hanks playing this simple-minded character for two hours would annoy me to no end, but I am constantly surprised how well he actually carries this picture.
So what is it that makes me put this movie so low in my list?
There are a variety of reasons.
I think what bothers me most is the simple presentation of everything – the glorification of the character of Forrest who (literally) runs through life without ever realizing what he is doing, the simplification of matters like child abuse and war, the denunciation of Jenny and everything she stands for and so on. At the end of Forrest Gump, I always feel like the people who spend so much time running with him through the USA until he finally stops and goes home, leaving them alone and confused – I, too, feel as if I followed him for no particular reason. There is so much happening in his life but it’s all superficial, almost drowning in its own pretentiousness. It seems that everything that is happening in Forrest’s life is thrown together without really ever thinking about why is presented in this way, why the plot goes there and what it ultimately means. The scene when Forrest gives a speech to talk about his opinion on war symbolizes it best – the microphone goes off and his words can’t be heard. It’s an easy why out for a whole movie that wants to say a lot but always goes quiet whenever it actually shouldn’t be.
I also don’t know what to think about the fact that Forrest Gump proclaims that he was a born soldier – do you serve your country best when you don’t have a thought of your own? Does Forrest ever know why he is Vietnam? Do the movie makers even know?
I also strongly dislike Forrest’s work on a shrimping boat. He is unsuccessful so he prays to God and God answers by destroying all the other boats and putting all these men out of business so that Forrest can get rich? Seriously? Maybe I am interpreting too much but the fact that his success is supported by a Gospel choir leaves little room for interpretation…
This all may seem as if I am too focused on a couple of little problems but they represent a whole array of problems that constantly arise during Forrest Gump.
And while I usually love soundtracks put together of well-known songs, in Forrest Gump it all simply feels like a desperate attempt to cover up its own emptiness by throwing as many recognizable events, sounds and sights at the audience as possible.
Of course, there have to be some positive aspects or it would have been lower in my ranking. Well, besides Tom Hanks I do enjoy Sally Field as his mother even though I again blame the movie for touching a subject as controversial as a mother sleeping with a man to get her son a place in a better school without addressing it in any way. Robin Wright Penn does the best with her part but her whole character’s arc is sometimes too insulting for words. Does Jenny really believe that the audience in a strip clubs wants to see her perform ‘Blowin in the Wind’? Does she have to face her tragic fate at the end so that the audience knows that its better to lead a life without thinking or questioning anything like Forrest?
While I think that Forrest Gump is a movie that is very often almost offending despite its attempt to be as harmless as possible, it does also have some successful moments. Forrest and Jenny meeting in Washington is a beautiful moment and the reunion between Forrest and Dan Taylor at the end is also quite touching (and Gary Sinise does some good work in an underwritten supporting role). Most of all, it’s the simple story hidden behind the grand exterior that works – Forrest’s undying love for Jenny. This human core of the story works while everything that is constructed around it doesn’t.
I have a lot of problems with this movie and it may seem surprising that I rank it before some other movies but I admit that it also works in some parts and gives some surprisingly touching moments.