Friday, 17 October 2014

Forrest Gump (1994)

"Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."

I didn't want to like this film. I assumed it had a passively conservative agenda in that the homespun wisdom of the Deep South is a much better guide for life than those pesky liberal intellectuals. And yes, there is a bit of that. And it's not necessarily a good thing to imply that success comes to those who morally deserve it as it does to Forrest- it doesn't. But I liked it anyway. I may be a Guardian reading type and Lib Dem voter (though definitely not on Clegg's wing of the party), but I hail from the reactionary, UKIP voting rural East Midlands and, while most of my fellow denizens of this region may average some decidedly right wing views, I'm definitely proud of where I come from. Eh up, me duck.

All of which is to say that I rather enjoyed this film and I think it would be churlish to knock it for it's fairly passive conservative slant. In any case, I'm wary that I haven't read the novel on which the film is based. So let's actually talk about the film, shall we?

Firstly, Tom Hanks is superb, evoking both humour and pathos in a way that reminds one of the great Charlie Chaplin.
His choice of scripts may often leave something to be desired, but as an actor he's one of the best that Hollywood has to offer. And the film is fun, riffing enjoyably on its Zelig concept to insert Forrest into footage of the likes of John Lennon and any number of American presidents. It is, perhaps, an example of a post-Cold War America, in the middle of the "End of History" era, looking back fondly over its most recent tumultuous decades of counterculture and Vietnam. 

Forrest's homespun philosophies are, of course, silly, and the film could be accused of naïveté in having it's mentally subnormal star end up rich and successful because he's nice. But one can also, if one tries hard enough, see there an existential acknowledgement of the absurdities of life and fortune, and I tried very hard indeed. The film is worth a look and great fun, even for those of us wary of possible conservative overtones.

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