Pleasantville (1998) - Movie Review

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

poster for Pleasantville (1998)

Two 1990s teenage siblings find themselves in a 1950s sitcom where their influence begins to profoundly change that complacent world. (IMDB)
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours 4 minutes
Genre(s): Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-fi
Released: October 23, 1998
Directed by: Gary Ross
Written by: Gary Ross
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, Reese Witherspoon

We start in the late 90s and get a quick taste of what the daily lives of twins David and Jennifer are like. Jennifer is willing to do pretty much anything if it makes her more popular while David is more of the nerdy type. After an argument over who would get to use the tv/living room results in their remote breaking, a mysterious tv repairman appears out of nowhere with a replacement. However, the use of the remote lands the twins in David’s favorite tv show, Pleasantville. 

Set in the 50’s, it is thought of as a paradise. Nothing bad happens and everything is pure and innocent. Unable to leave, the duo is forced to “play the part” and try to fit in. Jennifer however, is unwilling to dumb herself down or play the “good girl”. After hooking up with Skip, an unknown concept in this land of innocence, things being to change. Color begins to bloom in a world that has only known black and white. While many love the new changes and the enlightenment that goes along with it, those that are stuck in black and white feel differently.

I've seen this scene before...

The ones who have yet to change start riots, burning the newly filled books, assaulting people who are now in color, and destroying a diner run by an artist. They try to ban the new colors and anything they feel helped the spread of them. There is a scene in the local courthouse where they are seated separately, “coloreds” on top, black and white on the bottom level (sound familiar?). If this does not make it obvious what the message of the film was...well...I don’t know what to tell you.

Pleasantville is full of references to racism, prejudice, and Biblical moments (burning bush, Eve, and the apple) and comes off as an almost political piece of art. Because of this, I understand why it initially bombed but has since become a cult classic. This was my first viewing of this film and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The contrast is just...beautiful.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 7.5/10

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