forrest_gump_xlg

Forrest Gump may be one of the biggest anomalies in the history of moviemaking. There’s nothing here to indicate it should’ve worked besides, maybe, Tom Hanks. As a story, it goes against pretty much every rule out there. There is no goal. There are no obstacles. There’s no urgency. No real stakes to speak of. Yet it was the highest grossing movie the year it came out. It won the Oscar for best picture, best director, best screenplay. It was widely successful on just about every level. Eric Roth (who adapted the novel) is a fascinating writer. In his 30 year career, he’s never once written a spec script (until last year, ironically, when he penned a mysterious sci-fi project). He doesn’t seem to have read or studied screenwriting on any level. His approach is very much intuitive. If you look at his body of work (Benjamin Button, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Insider) he appears to eschew structure. His style is more flowy, almost like he’s following the story wherever it takes him, as long as that avenue is interesting. It’s an approach that many screenwriters attempt and fail at, but for some reason it works for him. Of course, some may argue it doesn’t. Forrest Gump is one of the most polarizing movies out there. I think it’s great, but many people absolutely despise it. Either way, it’s such a unique movie that I thought I’d break it down and see if I couldn’t find some cool screenwriting tips from it. Let’s give it a shot…

1) Say it with me: UN-DER-DOG – Forrest Gump reminds us how damn likable the underdog character is. Think about it. Who doesn’t like an underdog? And Forrest is the king of the underdogs. He’s a simpleton. He’s got leg braces. Everyone makes fun of him. He wants a girl he can never have. It’s impossible not to root for this guy. And if you have an audience rooting for your character, you’ve done the majority of your work. Rootforability accounts for probably 80% of Forrest Gump’s success. We just love this character.

2) Take some risks in your screenplay – One of the constants in Forrest Gump is that it takes tons of chances, and risky ones at that. Forrest’s great grandfather started the Ku Klux Klan. His mother prostitutes herself to the principal to keep Forrest in school. These aren’t things you’d typically associate with a “feel good” movie. Therefore it’s one of the reasons Forrest Gump feels different from every other movie out there.

3) But only if you have a great character – I’m all for taking chances. Forrest Gump proves how good a movie can be when you take risks. But if you’re going to take risks, make sure you have one hell of a main character, as he’ll act as a safety net for risks gone wrong. Forrest Gump, love him or hate him, is an unforgettable character. He alone is the reason this script can buck traditional structure and still get away with it. Taking huge story risks with average characters (or even “good” characters) is probably a death wish.

4) CONFLICT ALERT – Remember that if your script lacks structure, there better be some major forms of conflict to drive the drama. Preferably, you’d like one big EXTERIOR conflict and one big INTERIOR conflict. The exterior conflict here is that Forrest loves Jenny, but she doesn’t love him back. The interior conflict is Forrest’s desire to be smart when he’s dumb. These two conflicts drive the majority of the story’s emotional component.

5) If you don’t have a goal driving your movie, make use of “The Dramatic Question” – You all know how much I like character goals. Yet there aren’t any in Forrest Gump. We’re just experiencing Forrest’s crazy life along with him. So, if you find yourself writing that kind of movie, make sure you AT LEAST have a “Dramatic Question.” That’s a question whose answer has large ramifications for your central characters. In other words, it must be DRAMATIC. Here, the question is, “Will Forrest get Jenny?” That’s the only consistent dramatic aspect driving Forrest Gump, and because we care so much about Forrest and Jenny as characters, it’s a powerful one.

6) Look to add a visual element that symbolizes your story – Forrest starts with a feather floating along in the breeze. This feather symbolizes Forrest’s journey, which floats along unpredictably as well, Ferris never knowing where he’s going to end up next. That feather became one of the bigger talking points after the film was released.

7) We despise people who complain about their shitty lot in life and do nothing to change it – We already talked about how likable the underdog character is. Yet another reason why Forrest is so likable is that he has all these disadvantages, yet never uses them as an excuse. He always pushes forward and tries to make the best out of his situation. I can’t stress how likable these people are in both real life and in the movies. If you can write this type of character into your movie, do it. We’ll instantly fall in love with them. (note – while this is true for main characters, it isn’t for secondary characters, like Lt. Dan.  Just make sure those characters change by the end of the movie)

8) The “Relationship Save The Cat” Moment – Lots of us focus on the ‘save the cat’ moment for our main character. But in a love story, I think you need a ‘save the cat’ moment for your couple as well. We need that moment that’s going to make us love them together, that’s going to make us want them to be together. To me, that moment comes when Jenny and Forrest hide from her drunken abusive father in the fields. It’s a “them against the world” moment that makes us sympathize and care for them.

9) IRONY ALERT – Irony is one of the most powerful tools in writing. Audiences LOVE IT. And it’s one of the reasons Forrest Gump is so popular. Forrest is the dumbest character in the movie, yet he’s the most successful character by far. This movie doesn’t work without that irony. For example, if Forrest was smart and he achieved all this, we’d be bored because, duh, why wouldn’t he be successful? He’s super-smart.

10) Comedy is your main weapon to combat melodrama – Forrest Gump could’ve been SUPER melodramatic. It has Forrest’s best friend dying on the battlefield, his mother dying of cancer, and the love of his life dying of AIDS. But the film places comedy at such a high premium, that it balances those moments out. Without all the comedy here, those melodramatic moments would’ve sunk this script.

  • Poe_Serling

    I remember going to the theater and catching an afternoon showing of Forrest Gump back in the day. It was one of those rare films that everybody would say, ‘…you just gotta see it. It’s soooo good.”

    Being a movie/history buff, I really enjoyed it as an entertaining slice of Americana and travelogue through most of the important events of the mid 20th century.

    And oh, I once ate at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company up at Universal City Walk… kind of pricey but not half bad. Don’t fret, Carson, they have a 1/2 lb. All-American burger and fries on their menu just for you.

    Best tip in my book: Say it with me: UN-DER-DOG. It worked pretty well with… what’s that movie from ’76… umm, Rocky or something.

  • DD

    oooh I like that “relationship save the cat” moment. That’s pure gold right there.

    I like this movie, don’t love it (though the soundtrack and special effects are amazing.) Let’s be honest, Pulp Fiction should have won Best Picture. It’s almost a joke at this point. Feel good movie defeats an absolute masterpiece.

    For anyone interested, read the book Forrest Gump. It’s a bit different than the movie, and the changes made for the film adaptation are certainly warranted. The book is this hilarious, weird, oftentimes surreal journey for the main character — in the book he even gets on a space shuttle with a monkey. It’s out there. A cool, strange, little book adapted into a feel-good epic. That’s hollywood, baby.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christian.zilko Christian Zilko

    Great post Carson. Great movie too. I love Hanks and Zemeckis and they did a beautiful job. I have to say I’m nervous about them working together on the Major Matt Mason movie though…

  • John Bradley

    Hey guys, it’s a little off topic, but I have just finished my query letter and am getting ready to send it (along with cold calls and emails) to both agents and production companies. If any of you guys have advice, suggestions or resources I am dying to hear them! There are some very smart, helpful people on here! Thanks guys=)

    • http://www.facebook.com/christian.zilko Christian Zilko

      Query letter? I haven’t reached that point yet, but I’ve read that it’s best that you personalize your letters based on who you’re sending them to, because you’ll get more read requests if you seem interested in them. It also shows that you’re more devoted to your script.

      • John Bradley

        Thanks wlubake, I had a friend co-write it with me and will have a few people look it over before I print 1,000 copies=)

        Thanks Christian, I have 3 different versions of the letter and can edit it to fit a specific company, but that is some really good advice!

    • wlubake

      Here’s simple advice I hope you don’t need: PROOFREAD. Have someone else read it. Bad spelling or bad use of grammar in a query letter will kill your chances of being read.

  • carsonreeves1

    This is a great point, Martin.

    • R.Sharp

      I think character studies are very difficult to pull of without feeling episodic. And for some reason character studies seem to be two plus hours long to boot. Forrest Gump worked because of the reasons you stated and because his achievements/involvements weren’t small, they were grand. And his journey wasn’t exclusive to his individual world. We recognized many of these moments from history, so his ironic and kooky journey somehow felt grounded in reality.

      • R.Sharp

        to pull *off*

  • http://twitter.com/jaexhkim jae kim

    I think forrest gump is the only character study movie I’ve ever liked. most likely because of the likeability factor. I hated benjamin button and the master.

    I’d mention flight as a character study movie that works well with structure, flaw, arc. I didn’t like the character, but I still liked the movie.

    • martin_basrawy

      Other examples of this kind of movie are: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, There Will be Blood, and the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

      You need one hell of an actor to pull off this kind of movie though. Because although I agreed with most of Carson’s points about the Master not having a proper structure and goals, one cannot deny that it had mesmerizing performances (Joaquin was robbed, I tells ya!).

      • jridge32

        What’s the difference between mannered and mesmerizing, again..?

      • ArabyChic

        Again, I think movies like There Will Be Blood and the Assassination of Jesse James have characters who don’t change because they are tragedies. One definition of a tragedy is the main character’s inability to learn from their own mistakes. They keep repeating the same mistake. The same with The Social Network. All of these characters outwardly actually have tremendous arcs: through devotion to their goals they achieve very tangible differences in their situations. It is their lack of understanding in themselves and others that lead to a lack of inward growth, and each of them pays the price for it.

        Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is not a tragedy, but is another example of a kind of movie where the main character doesn’t change that has been around since the dawn of film: the fool. Whether it’s Chaplin in Gold Rush, or Sellers in Being There, or Depp in F&L, the fool character always shows up how the world around them is in fact warped and twisted, like a fun house mirror, never changing just prevailing through rough times. This kind of comic character is inherently impervious to whatever the world throws at them.

        • martin_basrawy

          I agree with this. So is there an article to be gotten out of this? I mean to say, should Carson do one on how to write a tragedy or one where the central character does not overcome a flaw?

          • ArabyChic

            I think there are many instances where a character doesn’t overcome a flaw, and many different reasons why. I think you would need to attack each as an example of a separate “sub-genre.” I think it would be interesting. That’s up to Carson, if writing those articles interest him.

            If you’re a burgeoning screenwriter trying to come up with your two or three scripts that get you entree into Hollywood, I think writing these stories might make it more difficult unless they were supremely done, only due to the fact that readers and execs want to see you are capable of executing an arc properly. But I guess that’s true of whatever you write, isn’t it? If it’s good enough, people will notice.

  • garrett_h

    I remember when Forrest Gump first hit HBO. They used to show it around the clock. I’ve probably seen it 20 times. They’d literally have Forrest Gump marathons.

    The thing for me that really makes it work despite it’s “random” structure is the framing device of Forrest telling his live story at the bus stop. Roth uses the same device in Benjamin Button, with the daughter reading the diary at the hospital.

    I’m not sure if the book(s) had this in them, but it really is a brilliant way to tell a non-traditional story. It keeps this grounded and moving forward despite all the sequences not being directly related. It allows you to break up the story into little vignettes and not have a jarring time jump or flashbacks/flashforwards. This makes the strucure feel much more organic, IMO.

    I’ve read some amateur and less-successful pro scripts that tried to master this “epic protagonist journey” type of genre, but without the framing devices used in Gump and Button. Most times, those stories end up feeling unfocused and disjointed.

    • Poe_Serling

      ‘…framing device… to tell a non-traditional story. It keeps things grounded and moving forward despite all the sequences not being directly related.’

      Well said. Interesting observation.

    • Jonathan Soens

      I agree. Such a simple framing device, too. Just a friendly guy sitting at a bus stop, talking to strangers to pass the time. Which, you later find out is because he’s on his way to Jenny’s place, so he’s actually aiming to accomplish something in those scenes, even though we didn’t know it until later.

      I remember thinking about “Forrest Gump” when I saw “J. Edgar” because I didn’t like the way they framed that story. I’m still not entirely sure I understand what those scenes were actually about. It seemed like he was about to retire, and so he was having someone transcribe his memoirs or a departing memo, but the person doing the typing kept changing for some reason. And it didn’t seem like J. Edgar was in any trouble or trying to accomplish anything in particular with that document.

  • Jonathan Soens

    I saw this the other day again. Always loved that scene where Forrest finds out he has a son, and he has a sort of quiet, internal panic for a minute before asking: “But, is he smart? Or is he…?” Such a great moment. I think it was the little moments like that that made the movie so great.

    Of course, I always wondered about the kid. They say the kid is smart, meaning he dodged a bullet by not inheriting Forrest’s mental capacities. But the movie implied Jenny had HIV or AIDS, which the timeline of the movie would suggest was a result of her earlier years when she was partying and doing drugs — and that was before she came back to Forrest and conceived the kid. So, was the kid born with HIV?

  • http://twitter.com/jaexhkim jae kim

    I think another reason the movie worked so well was because of what Kirk Lazarus said in tropic thunder. tom hanks played a retard, but not really.

    • garrett_h

      Exactly. You can’t go Full Retard.

  • jridge32

    Yep, Carson, this script was pretty much firing on all cylinders. I knew there was a reason I saw it twice on opening weekend.

  • tipofthenose

    Hello. I know this is out of context but PLEASE send me a copy of OBLIVION. Anybody?
    tipofthenose@zoho.com
    PLEASE. Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.lenihan1 Kevin Lenihan

    I have to give major affirmation to lesson number 10. When this came out on video, my then girlfriend couldn’t get enough of it. I don’t know how many times she watched it. I’m not sure what the appeal was, but looking back I’d guess that it was the constant roller coaster of tears to giggles. She would oscillate between crying and laughing for the whole thing. That kind of emotional release can be cathartic for many.

    There really is sharp conflict in every scene, even the humorous ones. It’s kind of easy to do that with a character like Gump because he is so vulnerable. The fact that he is never defeated despite that vulnerability is what makes him larger than life. The fact that he doesn’t have an arc is what makes him triumph over history and life’s challenges. He never changes.

    Dramas that cover a life’s span are hard to do. On those rare times that they succeed, I think they are usually tragedies: Hoffa, Nixon, Lincoln, Gump, Oedipus. And the audience usually knows the tragic end. Much of Gump’s success came from people going back to theaters and from people buying on video. They watched over and over despite knowing the sadness of the conclusion. There’s something compelling about seeing a character in his fullest flowering and then experiencing his demise.

    Seeing Jenny as a bright and courageous girl and then seeing where she ends up is difficult, but unforgettable. Seeing Forest triumph against all odds, only to lose the only people he cared about is powerful. It reminds us poignantly of our own journey, and that no matter what peak you achieve, we all end up in the same place. That’s a bond we all share, and the feeling of connectivity that a tragic drama creates is perhaps its greatest power.

  • fragglewriter

    You made such a valid point. I love character study movies as people don’t do things just to do the. There is a reason why they do so but to better understand why, you need to know where they came from. I’ve seen Forrest Gump a few times. Not my favorite movie but it someone like him to go through life and what motivates him is uncanny.

  • fragglewriter

    Great breakdown. I think people overlook comedies in melodramas as well as dramas. You still need a bit of relief to get through the movie.

  • Colin

    One thing that wasn’t brought up in any of these comments was a great re-write job done on Forrest Gump. This isn’t meant to be shocking or a crude post, this draft does exist.

    In an earlier draft by Roth there was a scene where Forrest goes to a porn theater after hearing Jenny became a big movie star. He goes in, she starts getting busy on screen, and Forrest plays with his Pee Wee Herman in the theater. Removing this was a wise move, as it obviously didn’t fit the tone of the movie.

  • DrMatt

    This is a great point precisely because Carson stresses the strategy of “write a character a big actor would want to play.” Maybe there are a lot of big actors out there who still actually like acting for acting’s sake, and their probably looking for character studies and not finding any good ones. Maybe?

    • martin_basrawy

      I think biopics fall under this category (J Edgar, Lincoln, the Iron Lady, Social Network). For example, neither Lincoln nor Social Network’s main characters have a flaw that’s overcome or any sort of an arc. Everyone has goals, sure, but the scripts break down the main characters instead of worrying about proper structure.

      Carson should definitely do a piece on something like this. However, I do feel that as far as amateur writers are concerned this should probably be avoided because unless one has an available template to reference (i.e. a famous person on whom a biopic may be based) most writers will just meander around and screw it up.

      • ArabyChic

        I haven’t seen Lincoln, but the failure of the main character to overcome their flaw in The Social Network is what makes it a tragedy. He is right back where he was when the movie started, having lost all of his friends because of his flaw.

  • Logline_Villain

    Yet another anomaly about Forrest Gump: Show me the logline? I have no clue what a suitable logline would be for Forrest’s epic trip through the latter half of 20th century America…

    But the script adheres to this all-important rule: Hook your reader on page 1 – Mr. Roth’s depiction of that famous feather was as magical as Mr. Zemeckis’ on-screen rendering.

    Few movies have ever appealed so successfully to the whole gamut of human emotion…

    Great script. Great movie. Great analysis, Carson.

    • martin_basrawy

      Agree with all this.

  • AJMockler

    I like the typo in point 6, Carson. “Ferris Gump’s Day Off” would make a hysterical mash-up.

  • NajlaAnn

    Very clever storyline. We liked Forrest Gump so well, Santa got us a copy shortly after it came out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christian.zilko Christian Zilko

    There is a sequel to the book, and imdb says there is a movie in development…scary thought.

    • Poe_Serling

      Sorry, Christian… didn’t notice your post about the sequel… I would’ve added my comments to your initial thread.

  • martin_basrawy

    I don’t think anyone is saying that stories don’t need both character and plot to exist; rather, some stories (Fear and Loathing, Benjamin Button, There Will be Blood, Forrest Gump, etc.) can work without the main characters having defined arcs or the story having the traditional three-act structure. Carson has eschewed such scripts in the past (the Master, Stoker, etc.), but those movies still work if you focus more on the characters going through their lives rather than ticking off boxes that a gun introduced in the first act needs to come back in the third act. Both Daniel Plainview (in There Will be Blood) and Zuckerburg (Social Network) are exactly the same characters at the end that they were at the beginning. They didn’t overcome a flow and their stories didn’t have one defined goal that they were chasing throughout the film.

    • martin_basrawy

      *overcome a flaw

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.lenihan1 Kevin Lenihan

    What is Gump’s flaw?

    What cheese is he trying to get? Don’t say Jenny.

    What is Gump’s arc?

  • Poe_Serling

    I guess there was even talk about doing a sequel to Forrest Gump. It would’ve been based on the ’95 novel Gump & Co. by Winston Groom.

    These later adventures of Forrest would find him ‘playing football for the Saints, selling encyclopedias door-to-door, developing New Coke, crashing the Exxon Valdez, helping destroy the Berlin Wall’ and so forth.

    Some of the famous folk that he would rub shoulders with this time around: ‘Oliver North, John
    Hinckley, Jim Bakker, Reagan, the Clintons, and even Tom Hanks.’

    According to a 2008 interview with screenwriter Eric Roth, the sequel would’ve started “literally two minutes after the end of the last one, with him on the bench waiting for his son to get back from school.”

    So, what derailed the project?

    Roth again, “…I turned in the script the night before 9/11. And we sat down, Tom (Hanks) and Bob (Zemeckis) and I, looked at each other and said, we don’t think this is relevant anymore. The world had changed. Now time has obviously passed, but maybe some things should just be one thing and left as they are.”

  • Poe_Serling

    This is totally off topic… unless Forrest Gump was there the night George Lutz and family escaped from the evil clutches of The Amityville Horror House.

    The official trailer for The Conjuring…

    http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2013/04/02/the-conjuring-trailer-2/

    I can’t wait until July 19th rolls around.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      I saw this trailer last night. I hope the movie isn’t only based on jump scares such as MAMA was (I loved the story but those scares every 5 minutes were so irritating !) because there seems to be enough in there to make me cry from fear. Yeah, I know :-)
      The Warrens’ book is a must-read for fans of ghosts, possessions and all things that stare at you in the night before clawing you to pieces.

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey MZG-

        “…Warrens’ book is a must-read for fans of ghosts..”. etc

        Like I’ve mentioned a few times before, I actually saw the Warrens on one of their ghost tours at a college campus. So, for me, it takes the upcoming flick to a whole new spooky level of interest and fun. ;-)

        And you’re right, this new trailer is full of big scares and jumps. I must admit I like how director Jame Wan creates a lot of his chills and thrills with practical effects and differen camera angles and such.

        Keeping our fingers crossed that this one lives up to our high expectations.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Hey ;-)

          Fingers crossed indeed !

          I like James Wan a lot, I trust him completely with this kind of movie.

          Must’ve been interesting to hear the Warrens’ talk live about their work…
          (And now, I feel like re-reading the book)

          • Poe_Serling

            Back then, the Warrens were about as low-tech as you can get… a slide show with some ghostly figures captured on film, recordings of demonic voices on a tape recorder, and so on.

            Their real talent? Boy, those two could tell a good ghost story – the kind that would dot your flesh with goosebumps.

  • Jake Gott

    Seen this movie plenty of times. These are some good take-aways to keep in mind the next time I see it. Well done.

  • carsonreeves1

    It’s sentimental, which angers a lot of people. :)

  • Paul Clarke

    I agree with Gendl.

    Movies all are about one thing – A Problem.

    There are many ways the character(s) can go about solving it. So it can lean one way or the other. But it is always characters doing things.

    I haven’t seen it in years, but isn’t Forest Gump essentially just a series of sequences (last I checked the sequence approach was valid structure) each with it’s own mini-goal?

    As with most internet arguments it comes down to semantics. You’re arguing about your individual interpretation of a word rather than the concept itself.

  • Paul Clarke

    Brilliant

  • Frankie Hollywood

    HA! That’s excellent. I bet Arron Sorkin’s yellin’, “See, I’m not the only one.” Sorkinisms https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S78RzZr3IwI

  • Malibo Jackk

    Haven’t seen Annie Hall.
    (It’s on my list of movies to see)
    But I won’t been watching it to see her back into a car. Or be lured to the West Coast. (I’m not expecting much of a plot — and that’s why I haven’t seen it yet.)

    But I will watch it for the characters.
    (As wrong as that might sound.)

    • grendl

      Watching it for the characters as opposed to the plot doesn’t make it character driven.

      Just like watching a mouse negotiate a maze isn’t mouse driven. Someone has to construct the maze (Plot ) and someone has to create the mouse ( character ), and that someone is the writer.

      It doesn’t matter how small or inconsequential the plot moments seem to you Malibo, the dynamic of narrative goes as such: something happens, a character reacts to it, something happens as a result of that reaction, the character then reacts to that.

      Plot moment-character moment-plot moment- character moment.

      A shark attacks a woman one night ( plot moment) a sheriff discovers her body but fails to close the beach( character moment) leading to the attack of the Kitner boy ( plot moment ) leading to Brody’s enlisting the help of the fisherman and calling in Hooper.( character moment )

      Now this is true of all films, even the ones where you Malibo aren’t intrigued by the plot moments. You haven’t seen Annie Hall, but name one, one movie you consider character driven and we’ll see if I can’t pick out the plot moments interspersed between each character moment.

      Its the narrative dynamic. Don’t fight it, Malibo, it will only lead to frustration.

      • carsonreeves1

        Aren’t we getting into semantics here? If a story is more focused on the character development, it’s more “character-driven.” If it’s focused more on the plot machinations, it’s more “plot-driven.”

        • Citizen M

          I think it depends on what drove you to write the story in the first place.

          If you come up with a cool situation, let’s say, “What if a dog got elected President?” You’d think up a few must-see scenes. There’s the First Kennel, butt sniffing is permitted under the XXth Amendment, food stamps only buy dog food, is the term First Bitch pejorative, etc etc. Then you have to invent the characters to make the scenario come alive. It’s plot-driven.

          If you come up with a cool character, let’s say “What if a dog could talk? Everybody loves dogs because they are loyal and friendly and wag their tails. Man’s best friend. But they are also very sensitive to your moods.” You could go in a lot of different directions. Get the dog involved in a romantic comedy. Get him into politics. Into business as a consultant to the pet food industry. It’s character-driven.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Don’t get grendl angry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shaun.snyder.35 Shaun Snyder

    I loved #10, Carson! I’ve always considered Forrest Gump as more of a comedy than a drama. That may not be accurate to most people, but without the comedy, I don’t think the movie would’ve worked. At the same time, the movie did a great job at creating characters that you cared about and were emotionally attached to, and I admittedly teared up a few times.
    I read the book, and I think that Eric Roth’s screenplay is one of the few scripts that was better than the book it was based on. I hated the book. It was too ridiculous and I didn’t care about Forrest at all. The movie cut out everything from the book that needed to be cut out, and Forrest is one of the most likeable characters I’ve seen in a movie. I don’t think it should’ve won Best Picture over Pulp Fiction or Shawshank, but I could see why it was so popular. Very entertaining!

  • sheebshag

    It’s overly sentimental and way too long and the whole “Forrest with past celebrities” shtick gets old pretty fast. As does the “running” gimmick. It’s a fucking crime that it stole Best Picture from Shawshank.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Sentimentality angers you, right ? ;-)
      Just kidding, I share your thoughts.

    • Deaf Ears

      I certainly don’t despise it, but I remember it lost me with the running sequence and never got me back. And I think PULP FICTION should have won.

  • http://twitter.com/kinnygraham Graham

    I recalled reading a critique of Forrest Gump which says roughly – and I’m paraphrasing here – that it it could be interpreted as being very ‘conservative’ from a political pov.

    Gump is certainly not ‘intellectual’ – but he does the ‘right’ things like going to serve his country etc. He muddles through for most of it without really questioning anything. Jenny on the other hand, seems to embrace the lefty/sixties ideals of female ‘independence’ – leading a ‘questionable’ / unmarried life for most of the movie and embracing left-wing / anti-war ideals etc. None of these things make her happy. She ‘comes to her senses’ near the end but is still nevertheless ‘punished’…..

    Not a view I share, and it’s also one I’ve summarised and not represented very well either but I daresay you could read something like that into it if you were so inclined. And if you did read the movie that way I can’t imagine liking it much as a consequence.

    • John Bradley

      I think it is very conservative, as the main antagonists are a liberal anti-war group…I think Forrest grew up to be Sean Hannity lol….that said, I love the movie, amazing character, and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy

  • Malibo Jackk

    A few year back, I met a Forrest Gump.
    This kid was 23 — but as a young boy, rheumatic fever fried his brain.
    A friend of mine had taken it upon himself to look after the kid and that’s how I’d come to meet him.
    This guy gave him a watch. Taught him how to tell time. But whenever the kid had to buy cigarettes, fast food or whatever, he would plop some bills and a hand full of change on the counter — and let the clerk figure it out.

    And here’s the tragedy. He had been a smart kid — before the rheumatic fever.
    And his mother took it hard. She was no longer the same person.
    I met her once when we stopped over at his parents’ house.
    She was surprisingly happy. Jovial. (A little too jovial.)
    And she soon took me to the refrigerator, took out two plates and was excited to show me what she had made. She peeled off the clear plastic wrap and showed me what she (and apparently her husband) thought was the funniest thing.
    The two plates had all the appearance of gourmet salads with all the garnishments — except for one thing. The center pieces were carefully placed pieces of dog shit.

    Not sure that would make for a good movie.

  • FD

    Someone has probably already said this, but isn’t FG a perfect example of a structured film? Each act is its own story with a start, middle, climax, end – be it him growing up in his leg braces and then breaking them off (brilliantly combined with learning he can run), then going to college, Nam, shrimping… each of these is a story of its own, all bound together in a love story and using the historical thingies just to make us laugh. Forrest is likeable (even lovable). I disagree that it’s a character study at all. Forrest’s character is so simple, you quit studying it after about five minutes and just ride the feather for the rest of the film.
    And Evil Dead was the scariest film ever made at the time it was made. I’m pretty sure people watching it now will not be so impressed, but when I was young it gave me sleepless nights.

  • ArabyChic

    Benjamin Button uses a trick to pull off its arc. Like The Princess Bride it is a nested story inside another story. The nested story (in this case the love story between Pitt and Blanchet) gives us our dramatic question: will they be together? Which keeps us interested in the story within the story. But the arc is in the wraparound story (in the case of Princess Bride, Fred Savage has the arc – no one in the actual story that Peter Falk tells has one, they do have multiple multiple dramatic questions though: will Wesley and Buttercup be together? Will the Spaniard get revenge on the man with 6 fingers?) In Benjamin Button, the arc is the daughter’s who is finding out about her mother in the hospital. It slips past most people because frankly it’s done in a half-assed way.

  • carsonreeves1

    I’m not saying character driven movies don’t have plot, just not as much plot. As for whether this is helpful to focus on when writing, I’m not sure. I suppose arguments could be made either way.

  • ff

    Great comment and I totally agree.

  • Zapotage

    Another great article. I never thought about the story like that. To see an underdog like Forrest Gump live a life worth writing a book about, when he’s essentially mentally challenged is proof that you really can accomplish anything. Everyone in the audience can relate. Plus Forrest is funny and innocent. You tend to like him as a best friend immediately because he’d never do anything to hurt anyone. Flawed characters are interesting, but Forrest’s flaws are not his fault and almost turn into talented gifts underneath the surface. His “flaws” take him places and define him as a likeable person. I think this is one of the few films where the flaws of a character actually help him for the most part.

  • Citizen M

    Carson has discussed Forrest Gump before: http://scriptshadow.net/unconventional-week-forrest-gump/

Archives
  • 2014 (245)
  • 2013 (287)
  • 2012 (276)
  • 2011 (290)
  • 2010 (323)
  • 2009 (350)