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A magical TV remote transports a brother and sister from the 1990s to a sitcom town in the 1950s, corrupting the innocent residents of the town. The premise is interesting, leading to some amusing moments initially, but eventually the execution leaves something to be desired. The story meanders around rather aimlessly before turning heavy-handed with social commentary and moralizing. The film is rather obvious in making its simplistic points, using black and white cinematography to represent repression and socialism while using color as a metaphor for tolerance and liberalism. It has a good cast, especially Maguire, Allen, and Daniels, but it runs out of steam.
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.
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.
I think that this movie had a great premise - 90's kids get sucked into 50's TV universe, they disrupt the social order with individuality, imagination, and self-determination. However, this movie seemed like once the premise was created, played out excellently in the first half of the movie, it lost direction. There was a great setup, but the creators didn't know where to take it. They wanted to include a message, then let the message become so central, and so obvious and overdone, that it snuffed out the romp that the movie started with. I'm not against having a message in this movie - I think it was important and relevant; however the ending was so maudlin and hard to swallow that I left the theater feeling overworked.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although many reviewers have commented on the gradual switch from black
and white to color as the film progresses, and although the themes of
freedom and bigotry have been well documented in the reviews, I wanted
to add an extra comment on the subject of color.
One of the most striking moments in the entire movie is when Jeff Daniels opens the art book and thumbs through it. The movie audience, having spent some time like the characters seeing everything in black and white, can share with him the experience of seeing the paintings in their full color for the first time. We have all seen the famous paintings he looks at in the book many times, but have we ever seen them with such fresh eyes? The colors, both subtle in the Old Masters and bold in the modern works, virtually jump off the pages.
And continuing in this vein, when Daniels wipes Joan Allen's face with his napkin and reveals her true and vibrant skin color, it looks exactly as though he is "painting" her face with his strokes. This was truly a transcendent moment for me, and I never tire of seeing this scene in multiple repeated viewings.
See this movie if only for the renewed appreciation of beautiful things.
All I knew about 'Pleasantville' was that it concerned two twin
siblings who, after a quarrel, find themselves in a 50's black and
white sitcom. I thought it would be some kind of corny comedy and what
convinced me to watch it was the cast. But 'Pleasantville' is so much
more than I expected.
It touches a very interesting theme of what people think of the 1950's America based on the movies and sitcoms. Most of these media portray it so stereotypically as a result of which people are under the illusion that it was a time of innocence, when people followed rules and were always 'happy', when there was no sex or violence and history was just perfect. All the women had 'perfect' hair and makeup, the guys had 'perfectly' combed hair and would wear suits or uniforms. The characters never swore etc. But, that's not how life really was and this is what 'Pleasantville' beautifully demonstrates. There aren't many well-known films or series that depict the 50's more realistically. In this film, we see that the more the characters break away from stereotype and act out of their own free will, the more realistic the 'life' becomes in the town. The colour and black and white contrast plays a crucial role as it stresses on the stereotype (that is marked with extreme colours such as black and white) but gradually people make their own choices and add more colour to their life. Through the character of the mayor, Ross also portrays the irony of society. The mayor stands against the 'colouring' of society and he gets people to protest for him yet he too, just like everyone else, has his own secret desires. Yet, it isn't only about making choices, it's about discovering something new, something that shows that there's always more to life than its present state like Jennifer's new-find interest in books, Bill's passion for painting and Betty's new-find self.
Ross deserves most of the credit for his innovative writing and crafty direction. He touches on several themes such as racism and sexism. The 50's movie feel is nicely done with the score, the costumes, the sets and the acting. I really liked how Ross brought the surprise element but I hope people do not reject this film thinking that it's some silly film about two modern-day spoilt teens' adventure in a 50's sitcom. At least for me, the unusual cast drew my attention (I had forgotten that Ross was also the man behind 'Seabiscuit'). A supercute Reese Witherspoon and a naive Tobey McGuire are very convincing as siblings. Moreover, both show David and Jennifer's growth with élan. Joan Allen would make for a hot 50's mom. The actress is sublime. Likewise Jeff Daniels and William H. Macy are superb.
'Pleasantville' remains good entertainment while it presents some relevant themes with class. I had seen Ross's 'Seabiscuit' earlier, (which is a completely different film) and both movies show his capability as a filmmaker.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
David and Jennifer are a brother and sister of the 90's. They have a
terrible relationship with each other and with their parents, who
doesn't care very much about them and are always discussing with each
other. David loves to watch Pleasantville - a 1950's Black and White
soap opera, where everything is perfect and everybody is sweet and
polite with each other, what is totally different from the reality that
he lives. One day, when they both are alone in their house, they broke
the TV remote control in a fight, and a very strange repair man gives
David a new remote that is capable of sending them (Jennifer and David)
to the Pleasantville soap Opera, inside the TV.
Trapped in a life of old fashioned values, they both need to live as Mary Sue and Bud to integrate themselves into this 50's life, so different from what they were used. What do they don't know, is the difference they will make to the Pleasantville's society and how this little society will also change them.
I watched ''Pleasantville'' for the first time when I was 12, and I recently watched again with 23 years old. Even after one decade, the story continues to be good to me. I like very much the interesting metaphor of getting colored/changing inside, after doing something bold or having a challenge in your life.
This film was one of the first I saw with Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon( Who would say they would become such famous actors!) and I totally recommend to anyone who wants to watch an interesting and different movie.
because you certainly wont be requiring it once the film begins.Yet another incomplete plot with pretensions of social commentary added as an afterthought.What rubbish.Luckily I had free tickets so the only thing Im really angry at is the incredible waste of time the whole thing was-not to mention the tragic mess made of a fine Lennon tune(ok, THAT wasnt too bad).Also, as a parting thought, does anybody REALLY think Toby Maguire can act? Really?...no, I didnt think so
One of the most disappointing films I've rented recently. After reading all the glowing reviews, I had expected something at least as fun as the first "Back to the Future" movie, but boy, was I ever let down. First of all, this movie doesn't know what it's even about. There doesn't seem to be any sort of viable conflict to justify anything that goes on. The story changes direction several times, but never comes together to add up to anything. The main theme appears to be that the corrupt and decadent 1990's culture is a vast improvement on the boring and innocent 1950's that we've seen depicted in so many old television shows. What kind of message is that? That aside, this movie is far less entertaining than those same old programs that it makes fun of. The dialog is tedious, the acting shaky, the musical score forgettable, and the visual effects passe. We've all seen the TV commercials where everything is black and white and yet one person is in color. That's what this whole movie is based on. The whole story and all the hub-bub is built around exploiting this one simple visual effect, which gets old really fast. If you're thinking about renting this loser, forget all the Hollywood hype and save yourself a few yawns: put it back on the shelf and find something better. It won't be hard.
The movie is technically clever, well-acted and beautifully
photographed - but that's where the good stuff ends.
The point of view of this film is that people in the 1950s were stupid, complacent, unaware and uncaring of the world outside their immediate environs. Not so. Furthermore, the film would have the viewer believe that if one drops all sexual inhibitions, whether you're a teenager or a middle aged wife and mother - only then will you be fulfilled. Again, not so. That's how we got the real life screw-ups that show up with Jerry Springer, Maury and Montel on TV every day of the week.
To put this film in a historical context, the 50s were really a breathing space for America after saving the world from the Nazis and the Japanese in World War II just a few years before. In the 1950s, the United States was heavily involved in rebuilding those parts of the world devastated by a war they did not start.
Before that, Americans had struggled through 12 years of severe economic hardship known as The Great Depression (effectively 1929-1941).
In the 1950s, middle America was getting back on its financial feet and raising families. There was peace and the beginning of prosperity for the first time in many years. The U.S. was not filled with innocent, stupid teenagers. High school graduation rates were far higher then than now. The economy was good and unemployment was low. The polio vaccine was developed and cures for other ailments were in the works. Rock and Roll had its beginnings and the space exploration program was started. Civil rights changes were also emerging. For most people it was a very good time.
Fast forward 40 years and look at today's crime stats, divorce rates, incurable STDs and high percentage of unwed mothers and consider whether or not the more moralistic 1950s were not a better time. Too many young people look like idiots with their tattoos and piercings and dressing like bums or whores. When did ripped, over-sized jeans falling off your backside become a positive fashion statement?
More importantly today, consumption and greed are rampant. The U.S. has lost millions of manufacturing jobs and the borders are wide open driving down wages. It used to be a coveted privilege to emigrate here - now it's a catch and release program at best and English is becoming an optional language. Standards in everything are eroding.
Look at the family sitcoms of the late 1990s like Rosanne, Malcolm in the Middle vs. Leave It To Beaver of the late 50s early 60s and consider where you would rather be.
Pleasantville is a movie with little understanding and appreciation of the period in American history that it attempts to belittle by its revisionist portrayal.
This film is not funny, witty nor insightful. I'm not sure what it was supposed to be.
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