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Life Imitates Art When Two Modern-Day Teenagers Get Sucked Intothe Too-Perfect, Black-And-White World Of A 1950S Sitcom.Trapped And Trying To Find A Way Home, The Two Find Themselvesbringing Color To The Lives Of Pleasantville'S Rigid, Naivetownspeople.
- Behind-the-scenes featurette "The Art of Pleasantville"
- Music video "Across the Universe" by Fiona Apple
- Storyboard gallery
- Color television set-up
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Well cast, with William H. Macy doing wonders as the kids' "father" in Pleasantville, Joan Allen as their "mother", and Jeff Daniels as the owner of the malt shop who, as things change in Pleasantville, develops a long-suppressed interest in Allen. Jane Kaczmarek does a nice small part as the kids' real mother, one quite different from "Malcolm".
In some ways nicely thought out ("Bud" is gone an hour, the time of two weekly episodes in Pleasantville (and it is pretty clear what the episodes would have been about, until the kids change things)) but it seems like two weeks in Pleasantville, in others not so well thought out (How could Bud and Bill paint a mural in the dark? If the Pleasantville basketball team is undefeated, and there is no other school, who do they play?). Still, quite thought provoking.
Well shot, with scenes in a bowling alley evoking "Patton" and at Lovers Lane evoking "The Shawshank Redemption".
I withhold a fifth star due to the heavyhandedness of the messages that Gary Ross gives us in the second half of the movie. It could have been done better, more subtly. Also, Maguire's acting isn't directed quite as well as it could be by Ross. Maguire is made to come out with these profound statements ("Maybe it isn't just the sex" "There is no right house. There is no right car") in the same offhand, almost squeaky manner. It becomes a bit tiresome.
The DVD features are quite good, including the trailer, audio commentary, and being able to watch the movie with just the music, by Randy Newman and very nice.
In the hands of another writer, this movie could have been made as just a parody of 1950's sitcoms like "Leave It To Beaver" or "Ozzie and Harriet." But this film isn't about how clichéd those series look decades later. It's about the false nostalgia for a past that never existed. We survived the past and we know that everything turned out all right. Because of this, we selectively choose our memories and weed out the unpleasant ones. That's why the past is sometimes seen as "the good ol' days." "Pleasantville" does not represent how the 50's actually were but rather an idealization of what people THINK the 50's were---no one had sex, everyone got along swell, and life was fairly easy. Nothing could be further from the truth, and there are many films from that era which show how real people (even in suburbia) actually lived. This film argues that free will and choice is ESSENTIAL to life and that we should embrace freedom instead of fearing it. It isn't just about making out, but having the OPTION to make out.
Another reviewer claimed that this film was an attack on the 50's, but David and Jennifer could very easily have been dumped in the world of "The Brady Bunch", "Gilligan's Island" , or "Batman." But setting "Pleasantville" in a 1950's sitcom allows for the brilliant metaphor of black and white versus color. Black and white photography is a stylized depiction of the universe, but unless you're color blind it's not the way you actually see the universe. When we first see Pleasantville's citizens, all of them are cardboard cut-outs of stereotypes. As they begin to open up and become real people, color seeps into their world. The catalyst seems to be the willingness to experience new sensations and become vulnerable. Jennifer has slept with lot of guys when she was in the normal world, so sex does not change HER into a color character. On the other hand, when she actually finishes a book (without pictures) for the first time in her life, THEN she becomes colorized. Similarly, David does not bloom into color until he breaks out of his aloofness and defends his "mother." Compare the way he ignores his real mother at the beginning of the film to how he consoles and comforts her at the end to see how much David has changed.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. There are a lot of films out there that are very entertaining and/or very moving--like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Titanic." Movies like "Pleasantville" which challenge the audience and force them to think are very rare, and should be treasured by the discerning filmgoer.
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