1998; Rated PG-13; 124 Minutes
Tobey Maguire: David/Bud Parker
Jeff Daniels: Mr. Johnson
Joan Allen: Betty Parker
J.T. Walsh: Big Bob
William H. Macy: George Parker
Reese Witherspoon: Jennifer/Mary Sue Parker
Produced by Allen
Alsobrook, Robin Bissel, Andy Borowitz, Susan Borowitz,
Michael De Luca, Robert John Degus, Jon Kilik, Edward Lynn,
Mary Parent, Gary Ross, Steven Soderberg and Allison Thomas;
Directed and screenwritten by Gary Ross
by DAVID KEYES
is a notion in certain movies that we as individuals share
equal importance. No matter what deeds we accomplish, nor
no matter how many decisions we make right or wrong, we
stand as one single entity, no better than any others, even
though our background permits us to accomplish things better
or more often than others. It's a notion that we see in
movies like "Saving Private Ryan," where you have all of
these individual characters in war, accomplishing numerous
different tasks and objectives, though the movie paints
them all in the same portrait as equals, to a certain extent.
Sometimes, only as groups are we to stand out in these situations.
The combined wisdom and willpower of multiple personas creates
a form of unique qualities. We are often considered more
important as a group because each individual within one
shares different opinions and ideas. Individually, we only
have ourselves to share views, and with multiple, we can
offer different ideas, reactions and decisions to others,
because different people have different views. Thus, we
have several to examine, including our own, and it is because
of these numerous, separate ideas that we are considered
unique, more important, and dominant over the single souls
who keep to themselves. This may be true, sometimes in real
life, but the idea seems to apply to movies, sort of.
situation, I'm afraid, is in somewhat different views for
certain movies. I merely brought it up here to make a point
that ideas like this are not always true, and if they are,
they may not be true in ways we expect them to be. In "Pleasantville,"
Gary Ross, the director, portrays the people in a 1950s
television show to be one, single entity, since they all
have the same ideas, make the same decisions, and demonstrate
the same emotions. They don't take risks, and are not exposed
to failure or ordeal. They smile, live life in the way they
have been written, and that's it. To people outside of television,
this is obviously artificial humanity. And it is. But of
course, it's a 1950s television show. Did you expect anything
of the main characters in "Pleasantville" certainly didn't,
because he (David, played by Tobey Maguire) watches the
show and is familiar with what it tries to tell its audiences.
When he and his sister are mysteriously swept into the show
via a magic television remote, they find themselves members
of one of the lead families, the Parkers. Within the family
is a mother (Joan Allen), who always manages the housework,
and a father (William H. Macy) who constantly remains in
a good mood and cares about his family deeply.
least, that's the way it's written. These people never frown,
and they constantly have good thoughts on their minds. Jennifer,
David's brother (Reese Witherspoon), thinks that this is
some sort of joke, but David knows exactly what's going
on. He's seen this show numerous times, and knows these
people operate in simple, colorless lifestyles, plastic
to all but those who see it on television. Besides, television
is merely fantasy in these situations.
no matter. Being from the real world, and having been through
life's ordeals, pressures, and decisions, the siblings open
these black and white souls up to new ideas and pleasures,
a task that seems to confuse them at first. In one seen,
Jenny asks her 'television mother' if she's masturbated.
She, of course, doesn't know what it is, but when she finds
out what it is, she realizes that it never crossed her mind
before to do something for herself. Her life has been taking
care of her family, and nothing more.
those who have been exposed to their new ways of life are
transformed into pure color, and the result astonishes the
others. Pretty soon, the transition occurs to some people,
and not to others, until in becomes a battle situation when
both sides are separated by their views on real life and
the views that they were written to have.
opinion they are opened up to involves knowing what is beyond
Pleasantville. You see, know one ever goes out of town,
so there isn't anything outside of it. Like "The Truman
Show," there is one main road that extends out of town,
and then it circles back into town when out to a certain
distance. Nothing lies beyond it, because, after all, it's
a television show, so why are worlds outside of Pleasantville
are a few tidbits that can be criticized, but one thing
the movie does not do is speak lies. It tell us the truth;
sometimes, we may seem a little plastic, and sometimes,
we can be a little colorful. These things are only separated
by a simple line is the movies, and what "Pleasantville"
miraculously does is bounce back and forth on this line,
exposing one side to the other. Because of this, it seems
fitting that we examine ourselves closely. Are we too colorful?
Are we dull and colorless? Or are we a mixture of both?
Your answer depends on what you feel, and what you think
is the real answer. We all have several different views
on life and our purpose on this Earth, but isn't that what
makes us unique, anyway?
1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.