Pleasantville (1998)

reviewed by
James Brundage


Pleasentville
As reviewed by James Brundage

I'm a font man. I love seeing the nice things I can do with the text. I like Comic Sans MS, Garamond, Lucida Handwriting. I also like to use Subscript, Superscript, Strikethrough, Italics, and Bold. Maybe that's why I like this year of film so much, because it's BOLD. In a decade of cinema mediocrity, of people unwilling to take risks outside of the independent art film world, the studios have only recently come back to the liberal, arty and intelligent cinema that SCREAMS at you: I'M GOOD.

Since the beginning of this year, we've seen risk takers coming out of the studios: New Line's "Dark City", a sci-fi flick with a David Lynch look, Paramount's "The Truman Show", an Orwellian look towards the future of television, "Saving Private Ryan", a bloody portrait of what World War Two was really like, and, now, "Pleasentville", a movie that can smile and satire at the same time.

A massive allegory and satire from frame one, where we flip channels while looking for the previews for the "Pleasentville", where everything's just swell... on the outside. On the inside, it seems devoid of the freedoms we hold dear.

Everything seems picture perfect, but then things go wrong when Jenniffer (Renee Witherspoon) starts to mess with the order of the universe, asking "What lies beyond Pleasentville?". When she goes further, taking someone up to lover's lane for more than just nothing, people start turning colors from black and white. Change is coming, and no one likes it.

The film, as I said, is an allegory of the late fifties and early sixties, a political agenda "change is good" motion picture that often screams its metaphors in your face, but in such fun ways that you can't help but smile. It's a film for the baby boomers in all of us, the ones who think back to that time and remember as the change was coming and coming fast, and how it took the world by storm with a fight.

It's a change from the normal for me, too. A bold film that you can relax and enjoy the complexity without having it drown you. And, unlike films like Saving Private Ryan, which made you face the horror of the day, and The Truman Show, which had a dismal view of the future, this one lets you smile, lets you come out happier than you came in, and feeling more intelligent to boot.


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