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Pleasantville should be nominated for Best Director and Best Cinematography, and perhaps Best Supporting Actor for William H. Macy. Joan Allen, Jeff Daniels and Tobey Maguire are also excellent, and the idea is brilliant. In other words, this film is one of the best of the year. It is fun for the eyes and filled with wonderful allusions to great books and other films, not to mention some similar events in our country's past. If you will let yourself go from reality and put a little thought into it, you will realize the sheer genius behind this film. The messages were plenty and appropriate, and while it is extremely fun to watch, it still is able to evoke deeper emotions. Fantastic, and my vote for second best film of the year behind Saving Private Ryan.
i wish i had the ability to put into a 1000 words what this movie impressed
upon me. sadly enough, i am a verbose person, inclined to write and write
and write, following a train of thought that never ends.
however, i shall certainly give it a try, without botching it up. after
having viewed this movie, i sat a while in my chair, watching the end
credits play and listening to the music as it played along. not until the
tape rewinded did i fully realise that i had watched a really good movie
again, one that spoke on more levels than the simple obvious ones.
if i were to speak of one of the main things in this movie that are so incredibly important, it's the fact that it speaks about people and society, and the patterns inherent in them. in the beginning, you see reese witherspoon in a normal 90's class situation, following what is a 'normal' situation in that environment. then she is dropped into pleasantville, and what happens? she loses all reference points towards a life that seems right to her; she misses her pattern in life. the first thing that happens is she tries to enforce it again, resulting in the start of the major happenings of the movie, and somewhere along the line, softly swerves away from it and finds another pattern. once she reads a book, and stays put reading in it while she could have gone out to 'do it', you know things have changed.
william c. macy shows the same thing when he gets home, and his wife isn't there to greet him, and i could go on for ages to point to this, but i'd be overstepping my boundaries of these 1000 words, and definitely spoil someone elses movie experience. fact is, almost every single storyline in this movie is about change, change brought about because someone is stuck in a pattern and feels something is wrong, or through the self discovery that is inherent in every single one of us. not only that, it also shows how fear of breaking established patterns can bring out the worst, or get the upheaval that the major starts with his 'concerned citizens'. but even beyond all this, all the explanations and thought provoking issues that it brings up, if alone for the beauty of it and for the precious score that is attached, one should at least consider seeing it. i am personally a very jaded person concerning movies, having seen more than probably even a professional movie reviewer has seen taking my age as his career.
even with that in mind, i thank my lucky stars for picking this up on a whim and getting a look at something that has taken me in more than most of the movies this year. several of the scenes are priceless, and as someone before commented, the drive through a black and white scenery with coloured blossom weaving through the soft winds will leave you breathless.
in short, if you feel like watching a wonderful movie, catch this one and be impressed; try to follow the patterns every character exhibits and think about what the colour means in that sense, how it brings life back, how change is life.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Very possibly my favorite film of all time. Pleasantville explores a
greatly simplified fantasy world -- a hypothetical 50's TV sitcom --
and examines what happens when reality intrudes on its premises. As
Shakespeare put it, "There's more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of
in your philosophy."
Unfortunately, some reviewers see the film as commentary of another kind. They view it as a confirmation of, or attack on, their own personal philosophies, political, social, or the like. For those who are expecting such, let me say what "Pleasantville" is NOT:
* It is not a criticism of the 1950s, its social mores or political bent.
* It is not a celebration of liberalism versus some conservative straightjacket view of the world.
* It is not a groundbreaking, original thought piece on philosophy, religion or anything of the like.
The creators of this film could have made it such, but I think they were smarter than that.
What Pleasantville IS is a celebration of real life, in all its messy, confusing, beautiful and often painful detail. And the celebration is masterfully executed.
The device of the 50s sitcom is used to convey the film's central point: that it is often easy, comforting, even helpful for us to think about things in simplistic terms, and even that there isn't anything wrong with that per se.
But to think about REAL LIFE this way is to live a smaller, lesser life. Life without color is easy to look at, and it certainly works. But a black-and-white life is certainly less of a life. OK, that one's easy, and that's where "Pleasantville" starts. ("I'm supposed to be IN COLOR!") Even the next evolution, that life is better with sex, is pretty much taken for granted, but of course that "enhancement" to Pleasantville later brings the real-life complications we can all predict.
And the complications continue, as Pleasantville residents discover that there are other places in the world, other people, other ways to think and imagine as evidenced in the books that had all heretofore been blank. As evidenced in the changes in music we hear at the soda shop. And these complications aren't all good. They introduce upheaval, prejudice, violence.
But the film successfully carries the theme that you just can't have the good without the bad. It keeps reminding the viewer that, if you're thinking that way, you are missing a subtlety of life, and you'd better think again. And I think it goes even further, making the case that even the existence of these evils makes life the richer for living, because they enable us to distinguish what we like and wish for from what we find reprehensible.
My favorite scene of the film may be when Bud brings Mr. Johnson an art book from the library. As he leafs through its pages, we are left to wonder what life would be like had we never had the chance to see these magnificent works, what a tragedy it would be, what a smaller, meaner life we would have lived. And a later remark in the film reminds us that seeing is only part of life, that the real joy is in understanding what we have the privilege to experience.
The film seems at times like it is hitting the viewer over the head, but it's deeper than that. When Bud takes (Betty Sue?) to Lover's Lane, his first trip there, she offers him some berries as they sit on the grass by the pond. And then she gets up, runs to a nearby tree, picks a shiny red apple, and offers it to him. The metaphor is painfully obvious, but it's supposed to be. We all recognize it. The point is, Bud recognizes it too, and he realizes in that moment that the fact that not all change is good will sooner or later intrude on the lives of these people, which is precisely what then begins to happen in the film. The scene isn't precious for a "Do You Get It?" Adam & Eve metaphor, it's precious for the look on Bud's face as HE realizes the metaphor being enacted when a beautiful girl offers him a bite of a nice red apple, as his look reveals his thought: "Uh oh. This is about to get ugly."
If you're looking for a groundbreaking thought work, look elsewhere than Pleasantville. It treats a classic theme, not a brand new one. But it does not, in my view, pretend to do more than that, and it treats that theme brilliantly.
The basic theme here being that the meaningful life requires breaking out of
rigid, dull and conventional roles, this film's story sucks two teens back
through their television set to a fictitious 1950s sitcom named
"Pleasantville," where life is in gray-tones until they start breaking the
rules. The self-referential notion of having characters interact with the
very media which represents them has its counterpart as far back as 1924
with Buster Keaton in "Sherlock Jr.," in 1970 with a low-budget film named
"The Projectionist," and in 1985 with Woody Allen's "The Purple Rose of
Cairo." But where the others explore the private experience of
self-discovery through their enmeshment with the media, this one explores a
much wider public awareness. In that sense it is a very cleaver and
intelligent story, offering numerous social messages worthy of
On the downside, its message that "different" is better mostly translates into "contrary" means better, providing an "anything goes" mentality in answer to conventional values. The rules are to be broken by gratuitous sex, loud music, and cheap garish art. Not "transcending" in answer to different, but rather setting up what is conventional today as more desirable than what was conventional back then. Exchanging one convention for another is not for that reason an improvement, and the attempt to do so results in a self-congratulatory narcissism of the form: See how much more urbane and sophisticated we are than our parents were? The 1950s are set up as a straw-man, while the values of the 1990s are simply taken for granted as superior. Hence the deeper questions of change, growth and improvement, are never asked, and what we are given merely puts the past down without bringing up the present.
When a mysterious TV repairman gives David a new remote control both he and
his sister gets sucked into an old 50's show called Pleasantville. A first
all seems perfect in a cheesy 1950's way - all language is wholesome,
everything is black and white, none of the sports team ever miss and nothing
is unwholesome. However when David and Jenifer begin to influence those
around them they not only change attitudes and behaviour but start to bring
colour to the town. The town splits in it's attitude to this
This is a very gentle comedy but with a hint of a moral about it. It starts out with `once upon a time' and that's quite apt in that it is a fable with a moral in the way many fairy tales are. At the start it's all quite small and the film almost shows the changes as bad and something that has comedy value, however later the changes are shown as something that should be embraced rather than feared. Then those who fear change and expression are shown to be wrong. It's all quite clever - the only problem to me was that the message felt a bit muddled and could have been a bit clearer - but then maybe that's the point, we learn our own lessons from it.
The effects are excellent throughout - colour creeps in in some objects and people to great effect. It's very well done and never seems unnatural. As a metaphor for change or lost innocence it gets a bit tired but for most it's very effective as a way of seeing people's true feelings come out.
The cast are great - Maguire and Witherspoon are both good (yes, even Witherspoon!), but the real strength comes from the adult support cast. Daniels gives a great understated role, it's not his best as he plays it a little too much like a wounded deer at times but he's still very good. Allen is the strongest as she has to carry much of the story with Macy who it goes without saying is superb - they share some very emotionally charged scenes together. It's always a pleasure to see the late J.T. Walsh in anything and here he is good in a comparatively minor role.
Overall this is a very enjoyable film that is very thoughtful and easily overcomes it's slow pace and slight lack of total clarity.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*spoilers, not that it matters*
A couple of teenagers are thrust into the world of 1950 TV show Pleasantville. The girl, a slutty airhead or valleygirl or whatever you americans call those "it's like, you know, totally!" types, proceeds to bang the first guy to talk to her, and since sex doesn't exist in 50's TV shows, it turns their world upside down. We are then kindly told by the director/script-writers (complete with cheery music) that lots of sex with no feelings involved is better than having ultra-clean morals. After all, clean morals are for boring people. Tobey McGuire's character goes from calm geek to sex-starved teenager because some good-looking girl he never met made him cookies after he becomes popular (awwww, true love). This film is filled with such positive values.
All in all, it's a very childish movie obviously written by an amateur. It even contradicts itself, since the nice people portrayed in Pleasantville would never turn into a fanatical violent mob. The worst scene is when the father of the family, who is consistently shown as a nice guy throughout the movie (talking to his children, kissing his wife, etc), is ruined by doing a 180, he's turned into a close-headed chauvinist so that we can give the lively wife a big scene where she proclaims her independence about how she doesn't want to make dinner, that she wants to run off with another man. And we're actually supposed to be glad for the wife here.
Brief recap of story: A brother and sister from the 1990s are magically
transported into the world of a fictitious television show from the
1950s. There actions have consequences and result in major changes with
the characters from the show.
The misandric (anti-male) messages abound. As the (positive) changes occur in the town, the adult males are the ones that are shown as being adamantly opposed,and are shown as stereotypical stuck-in-the-muds that don't like change. The adult males are shown as incompetents that are unable to even cook for themselves and gripe about having no one (i.e. their wives, which they are *dependant* upon like children) cook, clean or prepare their clothing for them.
The movie goes into depth to portray what the expectations of women back in the 1950s (e.g. cooking and cleaning), yet does NOTHING to portray the limitations and responsibilities imposed upon males, like providing for the family, wearing a suit and tie everyday and "male"-oriented work like yardwork. As with most aspects of modern culture, only the lamentations of frustrated women are shown and males are shown as living in a utopian society with no worries or limits.
Just as other movies, this movie shows a woman having a extra marital affair and it is "justified" because she has grown weary of her married life. Despite the fact that she never *discusses* the matter with her husband, who remains OBLIVIOUS to the changes that are happening, she has decided that her husband cannot cope with her newly discovered sexual desires and seeks out another man. This, of course, would be *taboo* if a man had done it; there are enough movies showing what a creep a man is who cheats on his wife, yet a when a woman has an affair it is always "justified". The father character is shown as being a nice guy, who never accosts his family, provides for them and seems to do nothing wrong, yet this also portrays him as being boring and therefore needs to change.
The movie started with an interesting premise and had really good acting and good special effects, I just found it difficult to stomach the frequent negative attitudes about males and the male bashing. This movie would fit in well in the book, Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Males in Popular Culture.
Overall the movie was pretty hypocritical. The basic premise was, "People should be free to do what they want, as long as what they want is what we tell them they want." For example, the father character was comfortable and happy with his old life. *That* was the life he wanted and he was happy with it. But this is portrayed as wrong because he is not "changing" his lifestyle to conform to what the other people are saying. Huh?
Pleasantville has been favorably compared to The Truman Show, which
premiered earlier this year. However, I feel Pleasantville doesn't hold a
candle to The Truman Show. While Truman offered genuine pathos, a
sympathetic, even heroic lead, and insight into the intrusive nature of
television, Pleasantville is overlong, repetitive, simplistic, and hollow.
The plot of Pleasantville has two modern-day teen-agers being magically transported to a fictional T.V. show set in the '50's, called Pleasantville (by no less a character than Don Knotts, the movie's only inspired idea). The boy, played by Toby Maguire, likes it there - it's a nice respite from his family problems, which includes his sister, played by Reese Witherspoon. She is transported with her brother, but feels she has entered Nerdville, and so sets out to change her surroundings to something she is more familiar with, something with a more 90's sensibility, like, say with...sex?
This is actually an interesting premise, especially since the 50's world is in black and white, and only gradually introduced to color. Unfortunately, the movie takes a black and white attitude in its morality too, hammering the same point home over and over again. I think the movie is basically saying the 50's was a time of stifling conformity, dull and unimaginative culture, and in the end, threatening and oppressive patriarchy. The 90's, on the other hand, offers ultruistic freedom, better values, and color! to life.
Please! One could make a better argument that the 90's offers moral decay and fear, as evidenced by broken families, teenage pregnancy, violence, and general cynicism towards all authority. The film takes the logically dubious step of taking 50's sitcom sensibility and making it the reality of that time. Just ask how 90's sitcoms accurately reflect 90's reality. One could defend the movie by saying that it is not making a literal 50's - 90's comparison, but is making the more general point that freedom is better than confromity. This is a truism and doesn't need over two hours to justify, and besides, the movie is taking that comparison seriously. The audience shouldn't.
Pleasantville is a really messy, unfocused film that has nothing to do but
define its' own atmosphere for over two hours, while trying to convince us
that there is a much deeper meaning behind it all.
I'm no expert on shows from the fifties, and I am not a product of that era, but I have of course watched many shows from that period and I understand what the movie was going for; it was trying to show us that things aren't as picture perfect as they appeared in those shows, and that change into the modern world isn't so bad--it just makes us "free". Fine, that's a cute premise, maybe for one of today's sitcoms (in which it has already been done many times before), but the town of "Pleasantville" is such an extreme exaggeration that I never bought the fantasy world presented within it. This is something that is necessary to the viewer when it comes to films involving fantasy--we must believe in the world depicted. It didn't work for me at all. Sex was something that was never talked about on shows from the 1950's, but I'm sure Mrs. Cleaver (Yes, I mean the fictional character) knew what it was! I also think that the characters from those shows also knew that there was a world beyond their own town, that there were days when it would rain, and that the local sports teams didn't always win.
Director Gary Ross seems pretty unsure of his material himself, and that is probably why the film keeps defining itself; within the last half-hour of the movie, a young boy punches another. Those watching look on in surprise and wonder. "They've never seen violence before" someone a few rows behind me in the theatre said. Well, duh! I thought this was clear as soon as the movie started (but I still never bought it), leaving the audience to defend the monotony of the screenplay. At one point, William H. Macy looks all over the place for his wife, looking for his dinner. "I feel sorry for him," an uncomfortable audience member said.
When the movie is not overdoing itself in explaining its world, it is trying to shock us with sexual humor, also in the same, tedious, overblown way--after Paul Walker is deflowered by Reese Witherspoon, the camera LINGERS on him, emphasizing his shocked and dumbfounded expression, milking it for ungenuine laughs. The film then TEDIOUSLY expands this single joke commonly throughout the movie, showing us shocking images of kinky sex acts, some I can't even mention here, for my comments won't be posted (HINT: one involves a popular number in the double digits), and when we're not seeing the acts of sex or the blown-away expressions of those who have just experienced it, we get some really "shocking" conversation; Reese Witherspoon has been shacking up with every guy in sight, then educates her mother on ways to "please" herself--Oh, MY! Another shock, provoking embarrassed and courteous laughs from the audience.
The final scenes of the film dissolve into complete disorder; Don Knotts starts getting angry at the kids for their disruption of Pleasantville, and goes quite mad, but what was he expecting in the first place, and why does his demeanor change so radically from that of the first act? Other characters end their stories without solutions, not that its wrong to leave certain stories open-ended--I just feel that Ross didn't know what he wanted to do with most of his characters. The final scene "Gee, you know you're pretty smart" is poorly written, tacked-on, unsatisfying, and forced.
I think what bothers me most about the film is that, since these banal characters are just imaginary, dull caricatures of 50's television shows, who don't even really exist, why should we care about them? At one point, Tobey Macguire's character is offered the chance to leave Pleasantville, but he turns it down--he wants to make a "difference" here. WHO CARES! It's just a TV show! Maybe I would have cared if I found the world of Pleasantville to be believable, but I never did. Grade: D
Pleasantville, which is extremely well crafted and beautifully acted, must
also be categorized as one of the most irresponsible films of our time.
Gary Ross, who previously wrote Dave and Big, both of which were excellent
comedies as well as being timely moral statements, has now crossed the
Not in filmic terms, but in morality.
It's obvious that Ross is making a statement about the inherent freedom within everyone from Adam and Eve right down to people within the world of television. This is a beautiful statement, one that should be lauded. But it is also one that should be tempered with responsibility and reason.
Tobey Maguire plays the proverbial Adam, a boy that loves everything to do with the 'pleasant' world of forties and fifties television, until he and his sister, Reese Witherspoon who plays the also proverbial Eve, are zapped into the television world of Pleasantville.
In this world, everything is black and white, until Eve feeds the apple to an unsuspecting boy. As his desire is aroused, color appears in the world. Soon, all the kids are doing it...literally, at the ridiculously named 'Lover's Lane'. More and more color appears, and yet, strangely enough nobody gets pregnant.
The mother of Adam and Eve, played by Joan Allen, is Mrs. Cleaver to a 'T', until her daughter teaches her about sex. After having been taught, the mother proclaims that the father would never to THAT, to which the evil Eve says, "There are other ways to find pleasure." To the mother, this means more than just masturbating in the bathtub. She leaves her home and family without even speaking with her husband and the only after math that we see is that food is not on the table.
In the end, the normal people of Pleasantville must somehow come to terms with the 'coloreds'. But what of consequence? The only true evil in the film comes by way of the males who refuse to partake in the world of color. They burn books, rape women, and are generally Hitler-esque.
In Ross's world, color means free will. The freedom to do whatever you please. This is truly an amazing thing that human beings possess, but this gift we have is tempered by the fact that we have consequences for every action that we indulge in.
In Pleasantville, there are no consequences.
In the ancient allegory, when Adam and Eve were cast out of the 'black and white' Garden of Eden, they were sent into the world we know too well. A world of hardship, but certainly a beautiful world.
Nobody dies in Pleasantville before and after color appears, there are no accidents, no mishaps, with unprotected rampant sex comes no disease, no pregnancy, no remorse...no sense. With the pleasure, there is no pain.
Someone said, "How can we know the sweet without tasting the bitter?" Gary Ross will show you.
Pleasantville is like the allegory of Adam and Eve cast UP from the Garden of Eden straight to heaven... So why are we here at all?
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