Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Written by Eric Roth based on the novel by Winston Groom
(number 249)

I have only watched this movie all the way through once, way back when it first came out. I’m sure I’ve seen bits of it since, but never just sat and watched it all. I watched it so I could stay awake late so that I could pick up Anna from her singing convention.

The opening sequence of this movie is very lovely, showing a single feather floating around to pretty music and softly touching a couple of people. Perfect allegory for the story which is about to happen.

Tom Hanks carries this movie, and thankfully he has this charisma which means he can do it, even with a really annoying accent which he uses to narrate the whole story. The point of this movie is loving Americana, showing Forrest on yellow school buses, meeting Elvis and various historical figures. As a non-American it’s hard to try and relate to this soft focus love letter which for some reason also includes bullying and stone throwing and…

Oh jeeze, I didn’t realise Forrest was named after a ‘war hero’ who started the KKK. That was darker than I remembered. Yeah, that’s.. that’s pretty upsetting to be honest. Oh yes and there’s the implied systematic sexual abuse Jenny suffers from her father. That’s… not exactly a fun rosy soft focus memory. Also she gets away to live with her grandmother but what about her sisters? Man, I am noticing a lot of horrible things in this movie which I never realised were a thing before.

Forrest gets picked for football and gets a scholarship because he was running to escape some bullies who were trying to run him over. Like, okay I can see that it’s meant to be kind of charming but it’s charming over a very thin veneer of darkness.

I have a lot to say about the character Jenny. Obviously as a teenager I felt a connection to her, because there she was – played by Buttercup from the Princess Bride, with my name. But she’s a character with a rape as backstory and she exists just to be the most perfect girl that Forrest has ever met – kind, loving, accepting and free. She comes onto Forrest with no prompting, offering him sex and then comforting him when he feels he can’t handle it. I suspect this is one of the ‘cool girls’ that Amy describes in Gone Girl. She has a big fight with him because he keeps trying to rescue her… in the frame of the sexist, rape culture white American male – she’s friendzoning him when all he’s ever done is be nice to her. Which… is a horrible way to look at it but there you go. I sort of think that’s what the script writer was trying to imply. She even tells him she’ll always be his girl and then goes off in a bus with a guy who beats her. The message here seems to be that if you just keep holding on, keep on loving the girl for long enough she’ll eventually marry you.

One huge selling point of this movie is the soundtrack, I remember that Giffy had it on CD and she choreographed a dance to one of the tracks. It’s a good history of popular music from 50s through to the early 80s. It’s lovely to hear these snippets of familiar music threaded through the movie. It made me want to track down a bunch of seventies stuff for sure.

Does it make me love the people? It’s hard not to love Forrest, because the whole entire movie is his point of view and he is all sweet and innocent. Especially in the sequence when he goes back and collects all the members of his platoon, rescuing them all from the bombing.

I didn’t cry when he was talking about Jenny died, but it was close.

Bechdel test: wouldn’t it be lovely? If in all the people Forrest met and talked to we could see two of the women talk to each other? But it’s so hard with such a central point of view character. Almost everyone in the movie interacts through him.

Best line: Mama says stupid is as stupid does

LT Dan: Have you found Jesus yet?
Gump: I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him

State of Mind: As a frame for the history of America in the second half of the 20th century it’s pretty good, although there’s a callousness to it. Nasty stuff is referenced – as if to make it seem like it’s exploring the big issues, but mostly they’re mentioned and moved on from. Vietnam is definitely dealt with in all the post war, Lt Dan angst and pain, but all the racism, bullying, rape, abusive relationship and AIDs stuff is referenced as another thing that Forrest just kind of sees and doesn’t comprehend. This has the effect of leaving the audience to make up their own minds about what happened, and it’s a little disturbing. Was Jenny getting AIDs and dying meant to be her just desserts for sleeping with lots of guys/doing drugs/having a free life or is it a punishment for taking so long to get to Forrest. Or is it just another case of fridging the girl so that Forrest is left with Forrest Jr and has to make his life about her memory?

I enjoyed it okay but I won’t be watching it again any time soon.

Watched movie count

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