Who would want to live in a town called Pleasantville? The kind of place where everyone is smiling; where rescuing a cat is the only emergency; and every shot you make in basketball (from anywhere) will cleanly swish into the hoop? Sounds sweet-as, bro.
Director: Gary Ross
Writer: Gary Ross
IMDB Synopsis: Two 1990’s teenagers find themselves in a 1950’s sitcom where their influence begins to profoundly change that complacent world.
The very name, ‘Pleasantville’ suggests a place free from the horrors we’re exposed to on a daily basis (how wonderful!). In this fictionalised cookie cutter colourless world, life is ‘swell’ for everyone. That is until one fateful night in the real world (and future), David (Maguire) and his sister, Jennifer (Witherspoon) - with the help from a mysterious Tv repair man (Don Knotts) - are transported into a classic 1950’s Tv program and assume the in-show siblings Bud and May-Sue Parker. David who is an avid fan of the program understands the fragility of this world completely, and warns Jennifer to ‘play along’ until they can find a way to return to ‘real life’. Jennifer’s rebellious side gets the better of her as she instigates a sexual relationship with her in-show squeeze Skip Martin (late, Paul Walker). This single action shatters the illusion for the folk of Pleasantville and starts to divide the town into the curious and the resistant; those who want to know what else exists outside of the shared knowledge of the town, and those who want to fight for things to stay the same. What’s more is that for every new discovery a character makes or new challenge an individual overcomes, a brush of colour is introduced into the tonal surrounds.
The use of colour in the film is wonderful. Against the drab grey-scape, colours explode like fireworks in the night and carry with them a similar majesty. The production design by Jeannine Oppewall is impressive and the music by Randy Newman adds a deft Disney-esque touch so that even the most threatening of circumstances (eg - characters experiencing rain for the first time) are often humourous.
Beyond the convivial veil lies deeper echelons of social commentary. Ross (Big, Hunger Games) exposes these themes delicately and doesn’t linger on them either, so there’s no overwhelming sense of didacticism at work. Instead he focuses largely on the broad and yet simplified concept of change. “Change is scary for everyone, as is complexity, contradiction, and an uncertain future. But hopefully, what the film says or deals with is that you have to address all those things” .
Performances by William H. Macy and Joan Allen trump the efforts by other cast members, though they all serve character and function well. It’s a solid film and a wonderful creative expression by Ross who has many notable screenwriting credits under his belt. It’s refreshing to find a film that is equally accessible to a younger audience without the need to glorify violence, language and sexuality.
Ray @ Lovesac
RATING: Moviesac + Minisac
[Ratings are based out of our 7 sizes of Lovesac: Kidsac, Gamesac, Playersac, Pillowsac, Moviesac, Supersac, BigOne. Accessories are used as markers in between sizes/ratings: Tubesac 1/4, Cubesac 1/2, Minisac 3/4. The bigger the Lovesac - the more we love the film.]
. Gary Ross. (1998). Interview w/Joshua Klein. A.V.Club.