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A really great movie. Not only a great fictional story, but non fiction as well. Pleasantville has appeared on my cable system several times in the past few weeks and I have watched it almost every time. I was struck by the similarities between events in this movie and what we are experiencing today. There are some people who are able to change and grow easily in this movie, as there are in our world today. And then there are those who yearn for a return to the bygone days, with their "traditional values" and interest in the status quo. I was struck by the resemblance between the Pleasantville chamber of commerce and how they discouraged any sort of thought, and the Tea Party supporters that we hear all the time talking about their wish to reinstate those same types of traditional values. At least in the movie, those who develop the ability to think and feel emerge the victors.
"Pleasantville" as about a pair of modern teenagers who are transported
into a black-and-white 50s TV show. That scenario has disaster
potential of FEMA proportions, so when the filmmakers avoided making a
post-modern film version of "Gilligan's Island" starring Will Ferrell
is half the battle. And director Gary Ross got just about everything
else about "Pleasantville" half-right, which makes for a halfway decent
viewing experience, nowhere near as bad as it could be, but not as good
The look of the scenes in the sitcom small-town is half-right -- the costumes, hairstyles and set decorations are perfect, but the pretty black-and-white cinematography and odd camera angles are more reminiscent of an art movie by Scorcese or Woody Allen than grainy single-set 50s TV. The casting is half-right. Don Knotts as the mysterious TV repairman who transforms people into sitcom characters? Perfect. Tobey Maguire as the nerdy, unpopular teen obsessed with an old family sitcom? Way too easy. Looking at Tobey Maguire back in 1998, you assumed he was a geek, so he coasts on his charisma deficit and doesn't bother creating much of a character. Reese Witherspoon as the slutty girl who introduces sexual liberation into the staid 1950s? Brilliant. This was before anyone knew how good she was, and her depth and intelligence shine through this gimmicky role -- her sense of mischief in her early sitcom scene is hilarious, her transformation into a more thoughtful young woman is quite moving. Jeff Daniels as the soda jerk with artistic aspirations? Confused. Is his character stupid or repressed? Daniels never figures it out so he plays it both ways and winds up just kind of stiff and awkward. Finally, the politics of "Pleasantville" are halfway thought-provoking. A few scenes of book burning and threatened gang rape are enough to make you wonder if "Pleasantville" is about the sentimental impulse at the heart of fascism. But that's kind of intense for an American movie so it almost literally backs away from that idea in a bizarre edit and becomes a sentimental movie about self-acceptance and self-actualization. Which is fine, just not incredibly distinctive. Good but not great.
The story begins in the 1990s focusing on a pair of bickering siblings. Davidan intelligent but socially inept teenagerand his twin sister Jenniferpretty, promiscuous, and desperate to be popularare at odds with one another until they abruptly find themselves trapped inside Pleasantville, a 1950s black-and-white sitcom where tradition, naiveté, and old-fashioned values run the idyllic little town like clockwork. Conflict arises when the duo's contemporary social norms begin to influence the town inhabitants, all of whom begin to embrace their unexplored potential and newfound autonomy. Wonderful fantasy from director Gary Ross has some familiar themes but a highly original concept, splendid visual effects that create a sense of awe and wonder, and an abundance of moving moments balanced by plenty of funny ones as well. It goes on too long, but benefits from superb casting all around with each actor playing their part to perfection. ***
I really liked this movie, not only is it pleasant it's original. The
plot is about a brother and a sister, David and Jennifer going into the
TV show literally, into one of those old sit-com where everything is
black and white and everyone has a perfect family. And the people are
living the same routine life while everything is black and white, but
David and Jennifer starts changing that. The movie has a deep meaning
about it, even on today's society and I enjoyed it from beginning to
end. It was like watching a fairy tale for adults, I honestly don't
know how anyone can dislike this film. Sure the second half isn't as
good as the first half, but this is still really worth checking out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon play brother and sister who are
high school students in the present day (though they were 23 and 22
when they made the film). While you have no idea WHY, Don Knotts (yes,
Don Knotts!) plays a magical TV repairman who gives them a bizarre
looking remote that somehow transports them into a TV show that Tobey
loves--"Pleasantville". They have no idea why this occurred or if it
will ever end or if Knotts is god, but oddly neither questions this new
world that is literally in black & white like an old episode of "Father
Knows Best". However, unwittingly, their presence with their modern
sensibilities and notions causes this seemingly idyllic world to start
to slowly come apart at the seems. Notions such as freedom to choose,
sex and individuality are missing in this world--and the two
interlopers bring this to the plastic world of Pleasantville.
By the way, Pleasantville is odd in many ways. First, all roads in town lead right back to town and no one has ever left the town or knows anything about the world outside. Second, books are blank inside and the people have no idea about what they contain. Third, when there is a fire, the fire department actually has no idea WHAT a fire is--they are only used to things you might see in the TV world--such as rescuing cats stuck in trees. In fact, how Tobey is able to finally convince the firemen to come to his house when there is an actual fire is pretty funny. There's a lot more that is strange about the town and it gets stranger when the influence of the two outsiders slowly causes actual colors to begin appearing in the monochrome world.
The film is a strange surreal sort of thing that is truly unique. Using colorization techniques, they are able to achieve amazing results that seem to jump off the screen. It's all a metaphor about how the idyllic life of 50s TV was actually quite stilted and repressive, though Maquire and Witherspoon's life in the real world isn't exactly great either--their parents are divorced and Witherspoon is, to put it nicely, a bit shallow and slutty. A happy medium would sure be nice--combining the best of both worlds--and I think this is a valid interpretation of the film's intent. Where exactly it all goes and the unexpected consequences are something you'll just have to learn about yourself, so watch the film.
Overall, a rather interesting and innovative film. It was nominated for three Oscars and deserved kudos in these departments--for sets, costume design and music. While I wouldn't put it in the category of must-see, it is interesting and worth seeing--even if the ending is a bit too drawn out in some ways. The only real misgiving I have is the way SOME might see the film and come to the conclusions that the 1950s were all bad and repressive--a rather oversimplification of the era, to say the least. This era, like all in our history, had its good and bad points and I worry that such a revisionist view of our past will be believed by young people seeing this movie--especially since films such as this are the only way most teens get their history. I know, as I've taught US and World History--kids are THAT gullible...really. I can't really blame the folks from "Pleasantville" for this lack of awareness in teens, but it did concern me as I watched the film.
By the way, one thing I liked about the film was the courtroom scene and William Macy's acting. While he said very, very little, his face showed so much expression--now THAT'S acting!
I saw this film on a Saturday afternoon and it really packed a wallop. As someone who was brought up on "Leave It to Beaver," "Father Knows Best," "Ozzie and Harriet," etc., etc. I was ready to have any image of those series deflated very quickly. The images (in chilling black and white) of the perfect small town with perfect families and perfect people brought back memories of the above shows (What DID Ozzie do for a living?!) and a few others. Who didn't want parents or friends (or a life) like the ones in the movie?! The cast (among them a pre-Spiderman Tobey Maguire, William H. Macy, Joan Allen, Reese Witherspoon, Jeff Daniels, Marley Shelton, J. T. Walsh in his last role as the town leader, etc.) was one of the best ensembles ever assembled. Everybody had their big moment on screen. Add to this echoes of "To Kill A Mockingbird," "The Wizard of Oz," as well as touches of the above noted TV series and one has a great movie experience. This one had me thinking for days afterwards and it'll have you thinking too.
Great movie, great concept (and not a rip-off of The Truman Show!) Smacks a wee bit of the racism in the South in the 50s and 60s and of Nazi-ism but doesn't dwell on the fact. Go see it: the best movie out in ages as most movies this fall have really really bit!
Wonderful, 'anti-nostalgia' vision of life's entrapments, both then and now. Several shots and scenes are homages to renown films and newsreel images in our collective consciousness.
Every so often do you come across a film that speaks of someone who
stands up to 'the man', and rallies everyone to be bold. Every so often
is there a film that screams the banal message, 'safety is overrated'.
This ideology has been repeated so many times in numerous films (though
it may fall upon deaf ears), that the message behind it all has become
hollowed out. Truth be told, I've gotten bored with this sort of movie.
Then comes Pleasantville, the movie that executes this idea so differently, it's simply perfect.
Pleasantville is a make-believe town in the movie that is the generic stereotype of good ol' 1950s America; everything's swell, simple, and there was no such thing as no-strings- attached sex. It was a mundane black and white world with no hiccups or atrocities. Pleasantville was, well, pleasant. Then, everything changed when a pair of siblings (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) arrived. Trapped in time, the two siblings are overwhelmed by oddities like loving parents, old-fashioned values, and a plethora of innocence. They soon learn to join this 'backwards' society, bringing colour to this small town. As the naiveté fades, the teens begin to wonder if their 'modern' perceptions are really the better option.
I loved this movie, to say the least. The fact that this movie was set in a 1950s sitcom made the colour versus black and white contrast that much starker. I guess you could blame my inner Literature student for saying this, but this metaphor used made the movie a great deal more enjoyable, and the message so much sharper.
The characters changed. They tried new things. They got more intrepid and spontaneous. People painted and had sex, wives no longer made dinner for their husbands, and the world was a technicolour wonderland. As the characters became more willing to try new things and take risks, they become people, and colour trickles into their black and white world. The characters literally had more colour in them as the movie went on. How is one to live passionately if they cling on to good old fashioned values, innocence or caution anyway, right?
The concept used in this movie is brilliant. It puts its message across so effectively. Pleasantville is a movie that will make people sit up and go, 'Hey, I get the message. It makes sense.' The concept is so startlingly simple, but it's the most ingenious one I've seen. It grabs the audience's attention and entertains us no end. The setting, characters and plot are all woven together so fittingly. The development of the cardboard cut-out characters to real people, the demolition of awful stereotypes, and the fantastic screenplay make this movie worth your time.
Pleasantville is more than pleasant, it is remarkable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Through the years, unknowingly really, I have developed into a "movie
buff". With this being said I find myself intrigued and mesmerized with
those "deeper" movies. By that I don't mean the ones about love
altogether but one's that are past the mindless
"explosions-for-the-sake-of-explosions" movies, but use symbolism to
relate to the viewer, as well as conveying new ideas in a more
thought-provoking manner. So I must say that I was "pleasantly"
surprised with the film.
The film begins with a teenager by the name of David, who let's just say does not have the greatest home life. He copes with this by seeking refuge in the 50's perfect world, portrayed in a sitcom called Pleasantville. His sister, Jennifer's character, however is contrary to his. She is wild and enjoys life's thrills, worries about her appearance, and how she is perceived by those around her. The film really begins to take shape as the two characters are actually thrown into the sitcom. In the sitcom, all the characters are black and white but as David and his sister bring imperfection to their world they begin to see colors appearing on certain people in the sitcom. It seems that things such as sex, violence, sadness, and other feelings that are not "pleasant" trigger the change in color.
However, it is not the corruption that causes color in Pleasantville, rather it symbolizes when people live life to the fullest with a wide array of feelings, not just the good, but the bad too, "all of themselves". So when the black and white characters begin to experience some of these new feelings such as love they begin "really living". The beauty of the color as opposed to black and white also symbolizes the beauty in living life to the fullness. The symbolic reasons as to why people obtain color is perhaps best evident (as well as the 'courtroom scene', which was one of my favorite scenes) when David and his sister are one of the last of the main characters to obtain color. David obtains color when he stands up for his mother. This displays David exercising an unexplored side of his personality, where he generally is content with his life and what is happening. But his stepping out of his comfort zone causes him to live a fuller life. His sister obtains color when she reads a book and genuinely enjoys it. This symbolizes that the best parts of themselves, the parts they never knew existed were there all along and once you experience all of life, its beauty and majesty, then can we live full lives, and in doing so we may have to do things out of the status quo (as Bud and Mr.Johnson did when they painted the mural on the wall, knowing they would be persecuted and ridiculed by other members of the town). Another great use of symbolism is the ending when Jennifer chooses to stay in Pleasantville, while Bud chooses to go back to his imperfect world. This shows that Bud, although wishing he could live in Peasantville originally, realized that a perfect world has no surprises, no newness to it and that he should embrace his imperfect world, as he realized in his time in Pleasantville. He also realized that he should just live and not expect things to be a certain way and that life will be life and it was meant to be lived to the fullest of our potential and embraced. While, his sister though wild at the start and hated Pleasantville originally, found that the best part of her was her thirst for knowledge and new love of literature, something in which she never knew she had in her.
Besides the great theme, and beautiful portrayal through various accounts of symbolism there were also wonderful casting done in this film, as well as wonderful performances particularly by Maguire, and Daniels.
I would highly recommend the film to those in search of the "deeper film"
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