Monday, September 08, 2014

Reaction Airy

Critic Amy Nicholson has a bone to pick with Forrest Gump on its 20th anniversary re-release. Alas, it's the same bone that's been stuck in many a craw since the original came out.  See, the film has Forrest at the center of modern American history but he just keeps winning because of his dumb innocence, sweetly floating above it all while many critics of America come off bad.  Or something like that.

It's a fair criticism that the film doesn't go deeply into politics, but that's sort of the point. It's an oddly constructed film--almost experimental--that swiftly moves from one fantastic episode to the next.  That such an odd film, one that breaks so many rules, became an Oscar-winning blockbuster is a surprise, and mostly due to the light but sure touch of director Robert Zemeckis, along with Tom Hanks' winning performance and some good gags and touching moments along the way. (Though it does run out of steam somewhere around the two-thirds mark.)  Nicholson misses the odd construction and format--it was such a big hit that many critics dismissed it as just another mega-hit rather than the unique thing it is--and actually complains that it doesn't follow the original novel, as if it's Hollywood's job to shoot the book and not adapt it. (And it's not like the original is some sort of classic.) 

But these complaints were there the first time around.  Does Nicholson have anything to add?  She complains that maybe 90s audiences were happy just to hear things are okay and not have to hear about how bad war is.  In the Clinton era, she adds, maybe war didn't seem so awful. Unfortunately for her desire to spout mindless perceptions about the film's timing, Forrest Gump was made in the wrong era.  If it were ten years earlier, she could use the lie about the Reagan years being a period when America forgot everything and pretended life was great. If it was ten years later, she could pretend Forrest Gump is a stand-in for George W. Bush.

Wait a second, that's just what she does.  Somehow she's able to drag the all-purpose villain Bush into this. 

The year it came out, George W. Bush was elected governor of Texas. He was arguably Forrest Gump as commander-in-chief, a cheerfully oblivious 7-minute miler whom you could almost imagine would press his muddy, sweaty face to a shirt and leave an imprint of a smiley, like a sanguine Shroud of Turin.

But that lie comes later. In the 90s, Bush was a highly successful wheeler-dealer governor of a huge state, a real whiz at politics.  Almost the opposite of Forrest Gump.  You could make just as good (i.e., bad) a case that Obama was a representative of oblivious faculty lounge politics, ultimately an empty suit who won because he allowed people to project whatever dreams they had onto his Presidency.

Except Nicholson doesn't want to compare the film to anything today.  She just wants to attack the same things she's been attacking for years.  Though, to be fair, when she first saw it, I'm sure she hated it, and that was twenty years ago.  Now she's at least learned to hate it from the perspective of ten years ago.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:08 AM, September 08, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Hey, they can't all be winners.

5:42 AM, September 08, 2014  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

Have pride in your work - that was a very interesting analysis of a flawed analysis. Thank you.

8:19 AM, September 08, 2014  
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