You choose which note to start this piece with: the one on the box of chocolates? the shrimp boat? something about the feather that flutters happily in the wind? AM I A LITTLE TIRED? Forrest Gump is a curious character, with a bizarre creative and ideological story behind him, born on paper and then transported to the big screen, in a sweetened version but still ideologically connoted in an unpredictable way, by Robert Zemeckis. Hailed at the time of the release of the film by 13 Oscar nominations and six statuettes won, an avalanche of other more or less important awards and almost 700 million dollars in box office, it is a film of those usually said that ” marked the imagination of a generation “- only that is not true, or in any case not entirely exact: Forrest Gump it is a sensational case of intergenerational film that has brought together grandparents, parents and children by bringing them together at the cinema or in front of the TV to get excited about a story that looks like that of a man but is actually that of all of America.
This is thanks to the trick of following the entire life or almost of the protagonist from the early years to the happy ending, which is the only possible solution for a work of this kind, and of placing it against the backdrop of historical events. Also thanks to the fact that Tom Hanks is a kind of Voltron composed of everything that makes the United States great, or beautiful, or if you prefer salable, one of the most transversal figures in the entire world of entertainment, who had to wait for the entry into the field first of the Supreme Polarizer and then of the Great Pandemic to see some cracks appear in his facade of “the one that all America loves without reserve”. And obviously thanks to that undeniable air of a Great American Novel: Forrest Gump it is (also) yet another attempt to transform the brief history of the United States into an immortal epic, while keeping it against the backdrop of the funny story of a guy who likes chocolates. Here you are ten, carefully chosen.
1) His name is Forrest Gump, but his full name is Forrest Alexander Gump. In the film it is not said, but in Winston Groom’s novel it is: the name “Forrest” is a “homage” to Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard in the history of the Ku Klux Klan. “But then Forrest Gump is a Nazi!” you say. No! Haven’t you seen the quotes? Also according to the novel, Forrest’s mother, Mrs. Gump (we have no news about her first name) chose to call him that to “remind him that sometimes we all do things that don’t make sense”. Like living in Braunau am Inn and calling your son Adolf, basically.
2) There are two Forrest Gumps: that of the novel and that of the film. The first is presented as a person affected by what I believe is still called today “savant syndrome” and who I never really understood whether it is a single condition or a series of different conditions gathered under the same umbrella; the fact is that the Forrest Gump of the novel is a person with IQ dance but with exceptional calculation skills and a great familiarity in numbers. It’s also more obnoxious and edgy than the one in the movie, which is a sweetened and also quite sweetened version of it – and not just thanks to Tom Hanks’ sweet face.
3) There are also two Gump families. Usual discourse of the differences between novel and film: in the first, Forrest’s mother survives the entire ordeal, while his father dies soon, overwhelmed by a box of bananas. In the second, however, Forrest’s mother dies (I hope you don’t consider him a spoiler) while his father is generically “on vacation”, and we are not told anything about his fate. Also interesting is the fact that Jenny, Forrest’s great love, survives the novel but not the film, and above all that in the literary sequel, Gump & Co., Groom has decided to kill off page both you and Mrs. Gump.
4) The literary Forrest Gump has a much more interesting life. One of the secrets of the success of Forrest Gump was to take an impossible-to-hate character and make him travel, occasionally as a spectator and often as a protagonist, entire decades of American history – an excellent opportunity, among other things, to experiment with CGI and mount Tom Hanks on top of a series of vintage footage, and in fact one of the six Oscars won by the film is the one for special effects. This does not mean that Forrest’s adventures in the novel are three times more absurd and even funny: among other things, I would like to point out that at a certain point he ends up in space on a rocket which then crashes and lands in New Guinea in the middle of a tribe of cannibals.
5) Other things done by the novel’s Forrest Gump, which I’m trying to get you to read: he played harmonica in a band (the Cracked Eggs), he was a professional wrestler under the nickname of The Dunce, The Tonto, he became a chess champion, he acted as a stuntman for a Raquel Welch nude scene and also ran for the US Senate – his campaign slogan was We Gotta Pee, “We have to piss”.
6) Winston Groom did not like the film based on his novel very much, so much so that he decided to write a sequel and open it with the words “never let someone make a movie about your life”. The book is called Gump & Co. and, despite Zemeckis’ hostile approach to the adaptation, he is actually heavily influenced by it: as I said above he adapts to the mortuary situation by killing Jenny and Mrs. Gump before even starting, and Forrest himself is described in a suspiciously similar way to the good-natured version of Tom Hanks, not to the harshness of the original novel.
7) Obviously it was also decided to turn Gump & Co. into a film, but nothing was ever done despite Eric Roth, former screenwriter of Zemeckis’ work, had prepared a screenplay in 2001. We will then have to wait for it to be available in some way Laal Singh Chaddha, the Bollywood remake of Forrest Gump out this year.
8) Let’s talk about the soundtrack, speaking of choices made to satisfy the widest possible audience. I am not referring to that of Alan Silvestri who was nominated for an Oscar without winning it, but to the selection of songs that appear in the film and ranging from Elvis to Dylan, from Buffalo Springfield to Jefferson Airplane to Fleetwood Mac and the more I write, the more I realize than not. , in fact it does not seem made to satisfy a wider audience possible, yet we are talking about songs that were written between 1956 and 1980, so there is a grain of truth in the initial statement. I tried to search even if there are songs inspired by Forrest Gump and I found this by Frank Ocean and above all this:
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9) Forrest Gump is the highest grossing of Zemeckis’ career, yet it was considered a half flop despite almost 700 million takings. Even more than half: in the balance sheet it was registered as a red of 62 million. Because? Because Paramount spent a reckless amount of money between marketing, distribution and other ancillary expenses. Behind it all there is a financial discourse linked to the so-called Hollywood accounting that explains this paradox, which, however, I do not go into because I do not have the skills; if you want around there are a bit ‘of insights about it, like this.
10) But then Forrest Gump is it a conservative and republican film? This is the question that American film critics have been asking for more than twenty years, and by which they are tormented: can we really consider a film that promotes conservative and retrograde values, defends the traditional family, paints hippies and counterculture for years Sixties in a negative light, does she even choose to redeem the representative character (Jenny) by making her say no to drugs and communism and making her embrace the Old Values? According to Zemeckis and Hanks Forrest Gump it is an apolitical film and that speaks of the human being, which is usually a formula of courtesy to say “of course it is a right-wing film, but we can’t say otherwise what do we look like?”. Basically the real problem is not so much of Forrest Gump, how much of those who are unable to accept that a work in contrast with their vision of the world can still have a value.
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