LowComDom Performances Presents
Film Review - Pleasantville
Ah, the 1950's, when all was well, and everyone was white.
Pleasantville is a great metaphor of the 50's, or what television told us the 50's were. Our idealized television memory doesn't include anyone who isn't white. It's all about the God-fearing, anti-communist, right-thinking, middle-class. WWII was over, and the turbulent 1960's hadn't arrived yet.
This is where our story begins. All is well in the town of Pleasantville. People go to work, kids go to school, and everything is in black and white. That's because it's a TV show. It's David Wagner's (Tobey Maguire) favorite show. He's in color, because he's in the "real world". Because of an accident with a remote control and an argument with his sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), the pair are transported into the television show's world. They are now black and white.
Living in a TV show is kind of fun, at least for David. He's knows everything about the show, and can anticipate almost everything that will happen. Jennifer, on the other hand, is not enjoying herself. Pleasantville cramps her style - until she begins making changes.
Suddenly, certain people begin appearing in color. They are the result of Jennifer's changes. She's opening the eyes of the townspeople to other possibilities. It's as if the black and white motif had been the blinders everyone had been wearing. What seems to pop people into color are strong emotions. The type you didn't see on 1950's TV. A troubled marriage, or perhaps a person having their value system threatened, would change everything. It's also a source of scandal for any one other than a child. To be an adult in color means you weren't living the "right way".
This is an interesting metaphor, because just about when the 1960's where threatening many people's value systems is when color TV was introduced in America. Not that color TV caused the civil rights movement. It was a very fortuitous coincidence.
What Pleasantville tells us is that the 1950's that was shown to us on TV never existed. Those who thought they were living in that world had a rude awakening.
Directed by Gary Ross
Released in 1998
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Reviewed by Mongo