Yesterday afternoon N.Y. Post film critic Lou Lumenick posted a tribute piece about Robert Zemeckis‘s Forrest Gump, which opened 20 years and four days ago (i.e., 7.6.94). Millions of moviegoers fell in love with this delusional film about a kindly, aw-shucks simpleton who leads a charmed life. We all know it wound up with six Oscars and made a mountain of money, etc.
But in my mind Gump‘s most noteworthy achievement is that it showed how myopic Americans (particularly American males) were about themselves. They really love (or loved) the idea of half-sweethearting and half-dipshitting their way through life. Gump is also one of the most lying, full-of-shit films ever made when it came to portraying the tempests of the 1960s.
Here’s how I put it way back in October 2008, although I was drawing at the time from an L.A. Times Syndicate piece about the Gump backlash that I wrote just after it opened:
“I have a still-lingering resentment of Forrest Gump which I and many others disliked from the get-go for the way it kept saying ‘keep your head down’, for its celebration of clueless serendipity and simpleton-ism, and particularly for the propagandistic way it portrayed ’60s-era counter-culture types and in fact that whole convulsive period.
“Every secondary hippie or protestor character in that film was a selfish, loutish asshole, and every man and woman in the military was modest, decent and considerate.
These and other aspects convinced me that the film was basically reactionary Republican horseshit. Zemeckis has long been presumed to be in the politically “independent” (read: Republican) column. And don’t forget the portrayal of the bitter and dispirited Lieutenant Dan by Gary Sinise, one of the most ardent right-wing guys in Hollywood circles.
“No offense to screenwriter Eric Roth, who’s a good fellow and a brilliant writer.”
In response to my ’08 riff an HE reader named “hcat” said the following: ‘I have the same problem with Gump. While it flows well and is quite funny throughout, I hate the way it continually rewards Forrest for his stupidity and punishes Jenny for her exploration.
‘What especially irks me is the fact that it criticizes the counter-culture and the hippies, but cues up their music every time they need a quick nostalgia hit. Gump is a country boy and the soundtrack should have been wall to wall Oak Ridge Boys. But that way I can’t imagine it being anywhere near the hit it was.'”