Rating -

Comedy (US); 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

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Written by DAVID KEYES

There 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.

This 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 different?

One 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.

At 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.

But 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.

Eventually, 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.

One 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 necessary?

There 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, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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