Sunday, October 05, 2008

But I always get the ones with all cherry cordials: "Forrest Gump"

I'll spare you the long version, but suffice it to say I've had a problem with this movie ever since it beat out "Pulp Fiction" for the 1995 Best Picture Oscar. Oh, I had never seen "Forrest Gump." Didn't see it before the Oscars, and I damn sure wasn't going to see if afterward. I mean, what the f*ck? Say what you want about Tarantino, but "Pulp Fiction" is a masterpiece, and nobody can argue which movie was more influential and holds up better today. Meanwhile, ask someone about "Gump" these days, and it's just a bunch of horsesh*t about chocolates. Good god.

(Bet you're glad you didn't get the long version.)

Anyway, so yeah ... I never saw "Gump" out of protest. It helped that I also never hung around anyone who said, "Hey, I'm in a 'Gump" mood tonight. Pop that baby in!" But you know, as a person gets older, he reflects on the childish stubbornness of his youth, and I guess 13+ years was long enough. After recording this notorious movie from HBO or Starz or something like that, I finally sucked it up, sat down and gave it a whirl.

Verdict: Eh.

We all know the story. An affable low-IQ guy (Tom "He Knows You're Alone" Hanks) ambles through life, comes into contact with all sorts of famous people and is revealed to be the inspiration behind many cultural landmarks, from Elvis Presley's gyrations to the "Sh*t Happens" bumper sticker. All the while, he pines for his childhood love, Jenny, who generally sucks. And that's it.

Oh, but it's not. You see, this simpleton is actually wise in his own way. And he changes so many lives as he just goes along, simply doing what he does. Much of the movie is told in flashback, with Forrest sitting on a bench at a bus stop, regaling seatmates with his stories and wisdom -- starting with that damn box of chocolates line.

Among our characters: Robin Wright Penn as Jenny, Gary Sinise and Mykelti Williamson as fellow soldiers in Vietnam, and Sally Field as his mama. Then there are the real historical figures: JFK, LBJ, John Lennon, George Wallace, Dick Cavett. You see, the neat trick with this movie is how Forrest is inserted into real archive footage, so as to really drive home how this dolt popped up through history.

By this point, you probably think I'm down on "Gump." Not entirely. Hanks is good. Annoying, true, mainly by nature of his character. But the guy ran with the role, and rare was the time I thought he fell short. His Oscar, I can live with. I'd say all the supporting folks were fine, too, and sure, I liked little Forrest with the leg braces. And the story? I suppose it was nice.

But if I no longer have a visceral hatred for this movie, I can't call it anything amazing. First, it's too damn long. We definitely could have done with fewer episodes from Forrest's whirlwind life. Second, and related, the Forrest-Jenny stuff -- even if it's all about the true love of a simpleton -- was too dragged out and irritating. Honestly, the chick really did suck. I guess that's the point; Forrest loved her no matter what and didn't know better, and would wait forever for her. In fact, I'm sure that's the point. Guess what? I really didn't care.

Maybe that's my problem with the movie. It was fine and watchable -- given the time -- and all that. But this whole "a child shall lead them " and the key to redemption -- not just with Jenny, but Sinise's Lt. Dan -- is in the love of a dullard just wasn't for me.

It's really interesting that this came out the same year as "Pulp Fiction," which is most decidedly not sweet or inspiring. There's probably a good film school thesis to be written about the world being divided into "Gump" people and "Pulp" people. Chocolates in the box vs. who-knows-what in the briefcase. Vincent Vega vs. Bubba. I'll get right on that. Right after I get Jules to go all Ezekiel 25:17 on Forrest. We'll see just how fast you run, dumbass.


At 1:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only thing I'd add is the technology of inserting Forrest into all that documentary footage was a pretty big deal at the time -- way more impressive, say, than "Zelig" a decade earlier -- and no doubt had some impact on the Oscar voters. Take that away and a lot of the movie's uniqueness goes with it. Nice soundtrack, though.

At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I said same thing as your dad -- that the technology was a big deal with Gump. I remember seeing each one in the theater -- who I was with and where and all that. Not sure which one holds up better. I suspect Gump does for the masses but I'd rather rewatch Pulp (my favorite scene being Uma and John T. dancing).

At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to Robert Downey Jr, what sold it was that Hanks did not go "full retard". I think the book version would have been better if not for the pesky "R" rating it would of received.

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Jefferson said...

Soundtrack was good. I'll give you that. And sure, cool trick popping Hanks into the same frames as JFK and LBJ. But couldn't they have had him also stumble across the set of "The Seven Year Itch?"


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