Tobey Maguire
Jeff Daniels
Joan Allen
William H. Macy
J.T. Walsh
Reese Witherspoon
Don Knotts
Marley Shelton

Gary Ross


Time: 116 Minutes
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama/Fantasy

AWARDS: Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Score

PLEASANTVILLE is an engaging movie that brigs up a lot of questions about life, unfortunately it hits you over the head with the answers. The main reason this film didn't get a better rating from me is because it got entirely too obvious and preachy in the end. A little subtlety would have gone a long way. Though I guess they figured if they were too subtle people may not have got the message. That's definitely not a worry now. The story begins when two '90s teenagers, David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) are zapped into David's favorite TV show – Pleasantville. A town only possible in TV Land, Pleasantville is a place where it's nice all the time and everything stays the same. It's a gray world without any color. Everyday is sunny and mild. The basketball team always wins. There are no fires, no sex, no troubles and no way out.

David and Jennifer are forced to take on the roles of Bud and Mary Sue, two typical unassuming, perfect, decent teens. Except for the fact that Pleasantville bores Jennifer to tears. Not only does she hate to be in black and white, she doesn't understand how these "people" can either. David tries to get her to play along. Any alteration to the script and she could destroy the people of Pleasantville and their way of life forever. Refusing to listen, she lights the fuse that will eventually turn the town upside down by introducing the captain of the basketball team to sex. The experience blows his mind, bringing him to places he never could have dreamed of, because they never existed before in Pleasantville. Suddenly color, true color, starts to pop up all over the town. Roses are really red, the grass is actually green. People start to feel and think for themselves. Those who begin to expand their minds and souls also start to turn into full-blown color.

At first, the town is excited and bewildered by the new shades appearing in their midst. Most hope the colors will fade with time and things will go back to the way they were - gray and safe. But there's no turning back. When her "mother" (Joan Allen) asks Jennifer what goes on at Lovers Lane, she tells her the truth. In a turn on the typical mother/daughter roles, she explains to Betty exactly what sex is and how it's performed with or without a partner. Her self-discovery of pleasure, brings Betty in touch with not only her physical needs, but her emotional ones as well. Her orgasm causes the tree in her front yard to burst into flame, igniting a thirst for knowledge the town will desperately try to put out.




"We're supposed to be at home, David. We're supposed to be in color!""

The books that once had only blank pages are now filled with the stories of classic literature and art. The teens flock to the library, hungry for knowledge of the world outside of Pleasantville where the road never ends. The very fabric of the town is torn in two, placing the "coloreds" and the regular townspeople on opposite sides of the fence. Along with the good emotions – love and passion – the bad ones breed as well. Hatred and violence break out in the streets, intolerance seeps into hearts who don't understand and don't want to change. This is where the film starts to get preachy, and unfortunately this is the way it stays.

The performances and special effects are what kept me from totally hating where this film eventually goes. It started out fairly subtle and I wished it had stayed there. Eventually the entire town finds itself in color and realizes that there is no turning back...and it becomes very, very obvious. Jeff Daniels plays Bill Johnson, the local soda shop owner who learns not only how to think for himself, but how to express these new thoughts and emotions through his art. He and Joan Allen are wonderful together as they discover what love really is all about. Don Knotts puts in a funny performance as well as the TV repairman who sends the kids into Pleasantville and who then wants them back out when they "destroy" his perfect world.

If you don't mind a lot of lecturing with your movies, you will probably enjoy PLEASANTVILLE. With most of the film being in both black and white and color, the special effects are something to marvel at. Color hasn't been used in such a wonderful way since THE WIZARD OF OZ. You get a real idea watching this movie what it must have been like for TV viewers and filmgoers when color finally hit the scene. The difference between the mediums is striking and powerful. It's worth sitting through this film for that experience alone.

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