Lieutenant Daniel Taylor: Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?
Forrest Gump: I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir.
F: Many, many times.
R: Yes, I think three times.
F: I know there are people who hate on this film but I definitely have a soft spot for it. It was one of the first ‘non-kids’ films I saw whilst growing up and I always enjoy watching it.
R: It certainly seems to have become quite unfashionable now, and that’s probably because large sections of it are either contrived, implausible, corny, or a combination of all three of those things. But there also isn’t any other film quite like it, and I think you can explain away a lot of those problems because most of the story is told as a flashback, by someone who isn’t too bright and could very well have gotten muddled over some of the details.
F: The one film that does come to mind to compare to this is The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Which I dislike a lot. I think you’re right that the charm of Forrest Gump is the central character. His positive outlook on life is a great message. He shouldn’t have been so hung up on Jenny though! Do you think the central love story works?
R: [MILD SPOILERS] It’s one-sided, and there are certainly points where you think, “Come on Forrest, cut your losses!” but his dogged refusal to ever give up is of course what makes him a hero. I suspect though it’s intentional that we’re never really shown anything to convince us that Jenny sees Forrest as anything more than a platonic friend. It’s hard to resist the conclusion she’s only won round because he’s the one man in her life who’s not been abusive to her, isn’t it? But it fits with the message of the story, which is that while nothing in life is perfect, if you’re willing to stick at it, you can make it work. [END MILD SPOILERS]
F: Yes it’s sweet how he’s always there for her. I think the main thing that makes this film cheesy is how it places Forrest at the centre of everything – he was the inspiration for Elvis’ signature moves, he foiled Watergate, etc. But I can’t help but enjoy those moments. I also didn’t really pick up on some of the other film references until watching it this time. I think I know the famous ‘I’m walking here!’ quote not from Midnight Cowboy but from this!
R: Yes the film is constantly nudging and winking at you, whether it be Forrest turning up at significant historical events, the aggressive use of its soundtrack (I counted at least three different pop songs in the space of a minute when he arrives in Vietnam) or by using shots that ape classic films. Some of that stuff helps give the film colour, certainly, but are there points where they go too far? I certainly think so.
F: Perhaps but I’m still happy to let it slide. I think the cast are all excellent in this. Obviously Tom Hanks stands out but I very much enjoy Gary Sinise as Lieutenant Dan. Do you have any stand out performances?
R: Lieutenant Dan definitely helps rescue the film from completely drowning in its own sentimentality. His cynicism contrasts with Gump’s naivety like chilli in a bowl of brown rice. And you’re right about Hanks; this has to be Exhibit A to anyone who claims he’s only capable of playing one kind of role.
F: Absolutely. It would be so easy to make Forrest a caricature and although at times it may feel like it’s going in that direction I think this is more the fault of the script than Hanks. There are many quotable lines in this film that seem to have ingrained themselves in popular culture. This is one of those films however I’ve seen so much that whilst watching it I know what the next line is going to be. So I guess I know the whole script…
R: You said you’d seen Toy Story a lot too! Is Tom Hanks your favourite actor or something?
F: I am a fan that’s for sure. But he often makes films that have universal appeal – have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like Big? Plus it doesn’t hurt that he’s the “nicest guy in Hollywood”.
R: This film came in the middle of a three-year run that I think you’ve got to say cemented his place as one of the greats of his generation. From 1993 to 1995 he starred in Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 & Toy Story. There can’t be many other actors who can match that run, and almost certainly not in the 90s. But of course the question is whether Toy Story is the only one of those we think is worthy of the AFI top 100…
Is it worthy of the top 100?
F: Yes. I will always stand up for this film.
R: A long way from being the worst 90s film on the list so far, but also a long way from the best. It’s a no from me.