By Kieran Begu
When one looks back through the lens of a 90’s movie-goer, it’s not hard to understand why Forrest Gump was so dearly beloved — it was a patriotic portrait of America, told through a sweeping life story.
But since then, the world has changed tremendously. And now, when re-evaluated from a modern lens, this heartfelt tale begins to crumble.
I’ve never thought Forrest Gump to be inherently ‘bad’, but it has always carried around a mythical, ‘American Classic’ pedestal which has regularly bewildered me.
Because it owes that pedestal to the landscape of films in the 90’s ; Schindler’s List left audiences yearning for joy, Spielberg’s 80’s classics had conditioned film-goers to enjoy simpler films. Forrest Gump, with its sweeping sentimentality was the classic case of right place at the right time.
But the film landscape has morphed. These days, I fail to understand how the film has still maintained its immeasurable acclaim. It’s a film permeated with constant optimism that feels cheap given its subject matter, and the story ha always felt so saccharine sweet.
It has its charming moments. A brilliant leading performance. Hell, I’ve even learnt the ‘Feather Theme’ on piano. But as days tick by, it feels less like a classic, and more like product of its time.
Now, as our own world landscape changes, the film’s underlying messages feel more problematic than what would’ve seemed nearly 30 years ago.
Ultimately, it’s a film that preaches the virtuosity of passiveness. Forrest stumbles through life, stays silent, follows the status quo and succeeds in life. Jenny does the opposite and ends up unmistakably worse.
This ‘bow your head down’ mentality washed down well with an American, middle-age audience. But they feel much less sweet, and more so hurtful with modern audiences.
And for all the film’s attempts to mould sentimental themes out of Forrest, I’ve always felt none of them felt particular earnest or important — it’s purely superficial.
That same year, The Shawshank Redemption echoed similar life lessons to significantly greater effect — it’s no mistake that the film has aged like fine wine compared to its Best Picture winning counterpart.
I’d hate to step on anyone’s fun, I’m sure there are hordes of dedicated Gump fans out there who have been deeply touched. Film has, and will always be subjective.
But a classic masterpiece held in the same regard as Casablanca and The Godfather? I’m not so sure of that high title. It may have felt like one at the time, but I feel a mass re-evaluation is due.