Neither the best film of 1994—nor is it anything resembling (or close to) a bad or mediocre movie (there has been a trend towards this in recent years for Forrest Gump)
Robert Zemeckis blends an undeniably strong narrative with his usual technical prowess and boundary-pushing. Like Roger Rabbit he’s blending real photography, and synthetics (mostly historical celebrity cameo’s that work but also believable CGI like the floating feather bookends and ping-pong). This takes a cue from Hal Ashby’s Being There (1979) and Woody’s Zelig (1983)- both are necessary text for anyone studying Forrest Gump—it also will remind people of the historical context/landmark and 20th century storytelling in Scorsese’s 2019 film The Irishman as we go from Elvis and bumper stickers in pop culture to political context with assassinations, Vietnam, Nixon and AIDS in the 1980’s. Zemeckis’ film achieves an earned triumph of nostalgia. It is a generation film. There’s great care here in compiling this.
Impressive bookend structure with the floating feather—I don’t think there’s the storytelling nuance there to call it a meditation, quite, on fate—but nonetheless
Flashback structure—pages and pages of voice-over narration. the frame of the park bench—old-fashioned but successful
the storytelling may be the film’s greatest strength- but there are beautiful images– like the reflection pool shot (in a terrific emotional scene reuniting Forrest and Jenny after Vietnam)
An absolutely breezily (though not without poignant moments) entertaining 142 minutes – the story moves. The film is very comparable to Frank Capra in both the attitudes and Capra’s brisk editing (which doesn’t get mentioned enough when talking Capra). It isn’t just the Norman Rockwell America (wholesome, naivety) that fits for a comparison.
That said—parts of the film are gratingly transparent. The repetition of the voice-over lines like “Momma had all types of visitors.”— cut to scene “I’ve had all type of visitors”… it is charming 20 minutes in—but 100 minutes in — yamma- too much.
Another exasperating aspect of the film is the clumsily transparent soundtrack. It’s the equivalent of a silent movie using a title to tell you what the character just did or is about to do. To be clear, the original score by Alan Silvestri (who also worked with Zemeckis on Back to the Future) is very well done- Johh Williams-like. And, the music drops on the soundtrack, are great- capture the 1950’s early 1980’s very well—but Zemeckis has this awful habit of mirroring the music drop to the action on screen—for example, when Jenny is going to San Francisco— we get “When you’re going to San Francisco”— when she walks out the door, we get “When she’s walking out the door” — Ditto when they’re going home to Alabama (you can guess it)—or how about the drops when we’re running—Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty, then On the Road Again from Willy Nelson and Seger lyrics “running against the wind”—ugh. I get it- Zemeckis is a popular artist- but there’s no call for this. It’s a blemish
CCR is like shortcut typecasting for Vietnam—haha —and that soundtrack is wall to wall- we get CCR, the Beach Boys and Henrix in 3 minutes
Like Capra, a heavy usage of the montage- here of Forrest talking about the different types of rain, learning ping pong, there are 15-20 sequences
Nod to Midnight Cowboy with the wheelchair crossing the straight “I’m walking here”
For whatever problems (I think they are relatively small – certainly in the shadow at what the film largely succeeds at) the films has—Tom Hanks is magnificent. His mannerisms, hands on hips. The scene where he asks Robin Wright’s character if their son is smart or like him—absolutely devastating. If this is Capra than it makes sense that Zemeckis pick Hanks to be his Jimmy Stewart and that is a compliment to Zemeckis, Hanks and Stewart