It also got more award love than it "deserved", which fed the backlash.
The controversy of FORREST GUMP - Page 2
I think most vehemence in the reaction to the movie is to counter-weight just how beloved it was (and probably still is) as Boomer nostalgia coated in sunday school glurge. It probably doesn't deserve it, but it feels necessary in the face of all that, to some I guess.
When I saw it, whilst it was funny in places, it did leave a sickening feeling in the pit of the stomach that only grew as time went on. Like the movie wasn't saying what everyone seemed to think it was saying (and frankly I don't think it's really got a thought in its head, when you get down to it). And that incongruity would never sit right and eventually make me actively dislike it. The very critical takedowns of its, probably unintentional, subtextual readings resonated with me really well.
When someone told me that the book is more satirical I could see that fairly well. But the movie isn't that at all. This actually is a story about how great it is that some idiot can stumble around danger and into fortune and success without even trying, because America! or Life's rich pageant! Or something! (probably god in there somewhere). Given the picaresque journey through the tumultuous late 20th and how ripe all that is for at least a few winks, the result is like if Disney adapted Candide with a mind to making "The Wizard of Oz, but not so scary".
I don't think the film itself has any particular agenda, more an almost determined lack of one. I really don't know if it was massaged into the 'feelgood film of the year' or toothless from the get go. Instead I do feel that it represents a moment in time that made a lot more sense when I was learning about the rise of the neo-cons. I'm struggling to explain the sensation except that I'm reminded of that bit in the Simpsons when the old folks are all watching an edited version of Gone With The Wind that has a happy ending and they like it better that way. In fact it's become the new reality for them. It's a movie that has its 60s-70s nostalgia cake and eats it too. It's a wonder it doesn't close with some sort of choral version of Billy Joel's 'We didn't start the fire'.
I don't know. Fincher is someone I'd agree is one of the smartest people in movies, for instance, and I don't have any trouble with the idea that he let Benjamin Button stumble into vapid sentimentality against all of his usual better judgement.
Fincher might be smart and talented, but looking back on his career and his recent efforts, I've learned he's sort of stunted maturity-wise. He's not unlike James Cameron. They can shoot the hell out of a movie, and they seem extremely intelligent, but they have the maturity of a high school senior. Also see: Trent Reznor (coincidence?)
Could be I suppose. Based on most of the stuff he says though, he goes into this stuff with a decent amount of self awareness most of the time. He knows what it is he's making and mostly in control of how it comes across. That's commendable if not entirely admirable. He might be arrogant in his own way, but it's different from Cameron who's seemingly convinced he's making high art all the time and fuck you.
Anyway, the point here is that Zemeckis might be smart capable guy (not something I'd dispute), but if he thinks he made Gump as a black comedy or searching satire and that's the movie people are watching I think he sorely mistaken. It's not that audiences don't get it. It's actually not the movie he made. He may have genuinely tried to make it, but that got lost somewhere along the way. (and Roger Rabbit shows this is something he's managed to get right in the past).
An uplifting saga about one young boy's earnest and good-natured attempts to overcome his disabilities, Forrest Gump is also a cheeky social satire of the past 40 years of U.S. social-political history.
Cheeky social satire! Apparently this interpretation didn't only arise in retrospect.
QT: They've been making such a tremendous deal about the fact that, "Oh wow, 'Forrest Gump' is the exact opposite of what 'Pulp Fiction' is," and vice versa. But I don't see them as being as drastically different or right and left. If you're familiar with Bob's work, actually there's a tremendous amount of acid running through it. I actually think it's a black comedy.
RZ: Well, I think that some of the black comedy and the tragedy and the irony in "Forrest Gump" is what makes it palatable to a larger segment of the audience, because it's not a melodramatic, saccharine story. It's balanced. It's got very emotional and moving moments in it, and it's got some very, very dark and fun moments in it as well.
QT: To me, when I was watching the movie, the moving moments and the touching moments, they are meant to be moving and touching, and they are. But the comedy element running through there--subversive is the wrong word--but there is a big edge to it. A movie about that guy as the No. 1 guy of America of the last 20 years has got a bite.
RZ: I think that's why the two films have found large audiences: Because they're not just the manipulation or moving of one emotion. And I think that's what audiences want to experience: They don't want to know that they're just gonna be in a laugh riot, or that they're just gonna see gore and nothing else. Hitchcock was always doing that. I mean, I'm not comparing us to the master, but if you look at the movies that you love, he was always releasing the tension with humor . . .
QT (to Zemeckis): OK. Now if you owned a video store, what section would you put "Forrest Gump" in?
RZ: You know what, I can't answer that. I don't know. Comedy? Drama? Adventure? They should have a video store section that's unclassifiable movies.