If you were told about a movie in which two teenagers are magically warped into their television and become part of a black-and-white 1950s sitcom, you would likely believe it to be a lame idea. If you were told about a movie in which people of different beliefs clash and constantly argue, then you would probably wonder what kind of people and beliefs we’re talking about. Now, if you were told that these two movies are one and the same, you will likely be surprised. Pleasantville is not really about two kids being trapped in an old TV show and trying to get out. It’s really about how good or bad it can be to introduce your own values to those who hold a completely different set.
So you have Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon ending up in Pleasantville by magic in their remote control. How the remote control does that and how it ended up in their living room in the first place is not important. The two explore this new world around them and find that everything is . . . perfect. It’s so perfect that players on a high school basketball team can shoot nothing but successful baskets. And when it comes to love, no teenage couples in the 1950s make out anywhere, and married couples sleep in different beds. That is, until Reese Witherspoon changes all of that.
The result is that some objects and people slowly go from black-and-white to color. Thanks to the magic of Hollywood special effects, this type of world with coexisting technicolor and monochrome is made possible. The purpose of this unique color scheme is to symbolize change, the experience of emotion, and living more “colorfully.” That can be a good thing, but at the same time, it is rather weird to see 1950s teenagers starting to make out in the back seat of their cars like we do today.
So you can imagine the conflict that arises from this. In one scene, married men get together to talk about maintaining their old-fashioned values as they watch their wives do things they’ve never done before. And in another scene, those still remaining in monochrome commit violent acts against people and places already converted to technicolor, highly suggestive of the civil rights movement of the middle of the 20th century. What happens from that point on, I won’t say, but I really liked how it ended and found myself smiling.
So yes, Pleasantville is a great film and one that I think many people may overlook. The cast is great, not just Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon, but also William H. Macy and Joan Allen as the conservative TV husband and wife. The whole story is very well written. Basically, Pleasantville is an example of what makes a movie great. Check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.
Anthony’s Rating: 10/10