**NOTE: This is an edit to a previous post. I have deleted nothing, and will make it clear where the edit is, because transparency. I feel that the unedited post was worded poorly and actually read as pretty ableist, for which I apologise. Anyhow, here is the amended review!**
I love movies. I love to talk about movies. There’s just one problem; every time I talk about movies, the conversation goes like this;
Them: ‘Oh, do you remember that scene from *iconic film I have no excuse for not seeing*?’
Me: ‘Erm, I haven’t actually watched it…’
Them: ‘What?! *Rant about how I couldn’t possibly have not seen this movie’
…Yeah. I need to educate myself, so I thought why not write about what I’ve seen? What is it about these movies that makes them so iconic? Do people like them because they’re legitimately awesome or did they just come at the right time? Do I genuinely have no excuse for not watching these? Lets find out together. Join me as I take on The List.
I tend to avoid ‘inspirational’ movies. You know the ones, they’re nominated for every award every year. The ones that try to make modern day problems seem trivial and give you a nice wee slogan to live by, like ‘life is a box of chocolates…’
The trailer for Forrest Gump feels like watching a condensed version of the film; it has the main plot points of the first half of the film, complete with whimsical music and frankenbites of inspirational messages; ‘you’re just like everyone else’ and ‘stupid is as stupid does’ (These feel a little bit like they’re preaching to the choir when they come up – she’s only telling Forrest this, and thus only telling the audience. These are hardly life-changing slogans for anyone, surely.)
The trailer tries to portray Forrest as a bit of an idiot. Even throughout the film Forrest is assumed to be stupid or disabled (Though they use a certain other slur) by the people around him.
EDIT 1: Though it is not exactly specified, Forrest canonically is disabled; he has a developmental delay and is intellectually disabled – the term used is ‘mentally retarded’. My confusion with this came from the portrayal, which I’ll discuss momentarily.
This is where the film is inconsistent; he veers between very wise and very foolish. Forrest is shown to be very competent if not excellent at tasks that others struggle with. This could have been an interesting turn in the story had it involved his mother fighting for his right to study in a mainstream school – he is considered for a ‘special’ school in one scene – or at least proving that Forrest has more potential than his peers realise; instead she sleeps with the principle for a cheap laugh. It didn’t work.
Forrest is also bullied by the other boys when he attends mainstream school. This leads to his friend Jenny telling him to run. Which he does; and as he runs his leg braces break into tiny pieces and he becomes faster than the fucking Road Runner. To me this read as ‘if you hope hard enough your physical disabilities will go away’. I know its probably meant to be an uplifting thing about surpassing your weaknesses or something but that feels like an even worse message given the context.
EDIT 2: I think I meant that this is essentially a Hollywood portrayal of disability; there are drawbacks, such as being perceived as ‘slow’, but they are easily written off as ‘childlike’ traits. We do not see an accurate portrayal of living with a disability; Forrest is isolated and bullied heavily in his childhood for being perceived as different, but this is not addressed and has little effect on him, his family and friends or the story itself – in fact, he is later given many opportunities that adults with intellectual disabilities are not given in society today, never mind the 1950s. We’re being given a highly idealised portrayal of disability that feels awful to watch. Also, hey possible savantism.
Btw, my proposal for another movie is dogshit. Get that right in the sea.
The portrayal of Forrest is really irksome to me; he’s not stupid so much as naive. Throughout the film he comments on events but only seems to selectively grasp what’s going on – he knows what happens when someone gets shot, but he doesn’t seem to understand what he’s doing in Vietnam despite the fact he carries a gun and is trained to use it. A similar thing occurs very early on in the film where he alludes to Jenny’s father, who was always ‘loving her and touching her.’ He doesn’t use any other euphemisms at any point in the film. It seems like he knew well what was going on, being Jenny’s best friend, but just turned a blind eye. Throughout the entire film he never pauses to question anything; he just sort of shrugs and says ‘that’s all I’ve got to say about that’. There’s no curiosity or interest there, he just does what he’s told. The sad thing is, this works out for him.
EDIT 3: I feel this is a failed attempt at writing a character with a social deficit. My point is that the deficit is not portayed clearly enough to make sense and doesn’t seem to ring true. It seems like his deficit is in working out the bigger picture; he can understand what’s going on with other people, but doesn’t seem able to grasp large concepts like war.
This doesn’t happen to Jenny, his love interest throughout the film. She exists as a constantly tragic character; she is abused, she is expelled from college for posing for Playboy, she works as a stripper, is abused by her boyfriend and then ends up with an incurable ‘virus’ (Read: AIDS). I hate the motif used for Jenny; birds or feathers appear regularly in scenes involving her, usually to represent freedom or escape. The part that really made me cringe was Jenny’s attempted suicide, where she stands on the edge of a building (A callback to a previous scene) and Free Bird plays. Ugh. If I’m honest, I find her story far more interesting than Forrests. I’m also interested to see what the movie would be like from her perspective; Forrest turns up quite a lot in her life, often out of the blue or at a less than convenient time. He also regularly lashes out at her boyfriends (Though sometimes it’s arguably warranted). What kind of film would this be if you changed to her perspective?
Forrest becomes an inspirational figure in Jenny’s absence, playing football in college, taking part in ping pong championships and starting his own business on a shrimping boat. His business is successful and eventually Forrest invests in Apple Computers (‘Some fruit company’ which mysteriously has the word ‘computers’ in it. He’s known to be able to read…) and gives away much of his money to his community. He’s portrayed throughout the film as a simpleton with a heart of gold, an inspiration to us all. The problem with this is that he isn’t an inspiration for a lot of the film. He puts his head down and does what he’s told without question. He chases after the same girl for his whole life even though she might not be interested (though she’s not perfect herself; she sends him mixed signals on a number of occasions). He sometimes struggles to filter his interactions with people and often his blunders are played for laughs. The film can’t decide if we should laugh at Forrest or look up to him.
So in short, I’m really not into Forrest Gump. My problems with the film were purely character-based . I just found Forrest a little too convenient.
EDIT 4: What I mean is he is a very sanitised disabled character; he is ‘just disabled enough’ that any able/NT person can relate to him.
I would much rather have seen Jenny’s story. The tone of the film was a little too nostalgic and the message was very confusing, especially from a liberal perspective. That said, it is a very beautifully crafted film – the visuals are honestly gorgeous, the use of archive footage/voice dubbing is clever if a little odd – and it reminded me of a certain music video… – and the soundtrack if lovely if a little too sweet for my tastes. Give it a shot – like I said, I’m not into this type of movie. Maybe I’m biased.at’s all I’ve got to say about that.