Movie Reviews: Pleasantville




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    New Line Home Video
     The boring life of David Wagner, a '90s kid with a '50s addiction, is forever altered with a TV remote control.
     Tobey Maguire, Don Knotts, Reese Witherspoon
Bottom Line:


     Released last summer, at first glance Pleasantville  seems to be a silly, but interesting visit to the world of Mayberry, Leave It Beaver  and Father Knows Best. The film opens showing the boring life of David Wagner (Tobey Maguire) a '90s kid with a '50s addiction. David is hooked on reruns of a classic black and white television show called Pleasantville, set in a simple place where everyone is swell and perky, "confrontation" is a dirty word and life (filmed in beautiful black and white) is pleasingly pleasant.
     One evening, life takes a bizarre twist when a television repairman (Mayberry's Don Knotts) gives David a remote control, which zaps David and his sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) straight into Pleasantville's black and white world. Jennifer, who is ultra-hip and sexually liberated, begins to infect the Pleasantville residents with her '90s attitude. One-by-one the unsuspecting people in Pleasantville begin turning into living flesh-tone colors.
      This is the part of the film where writer/director Gary Ross could have copped-out and simply made Pleasantville  a safe, feel-good comedy. Instead, Ross takes a bold step putting comedy aside and underlines the poignant ugly facts about 1950's racial attitudes of Pleasantvilles across the United States towards people of color.
      Hooray for Gary Ross! Ross said to hell with the safe and paved road that Hollywood usually takes. Ross reminds us that the 1950s might have been a utopia for Beaver Cleaver and Andy of Mayberry -- but the '50s were anything but pleasant for people of color.
     In the following scene, David [who is called Bud by the Pleasantville residents] and his girlfriend Margaret stop on Pleasantville's Main street to kiss. Suddenly a crew-cut wearing bully, appropriately named Whitey, drives up in his convertible with another thug and questions David about his absences at the town's emergency meetings. Margaret has turned to living color, while Bud and Whitey are still in black and white.

Whitey: Hello, Bud.
Bud: Whitey.
Whitey: [Smirk on his face] Hey, Bud why aren't you at the town meeting right now?
Bud: No reason. How come you're not?
Whitey: We're suppose to go around and let everyone know about it. [Whitey looks Margaret up and down and finally says...] I thought it was because you were to busy entertaining your "colored" girlfriend. [Laughs]
Bud: Hey, why don't you guys get the hell out of here.
Whitey: All right, we'll do that. [Pauses and smiles] You know Margaret ,you can make those oatmeal cookies for me anytime you want to. [Drives away laughing]
The scene changes to a Town Hall meeting, where the mayor is addressing a group of citizens who are upset that many of the town folks have changed to Technicolor.
Mayor: I think we all know what's been going on here. Up until now, everything around here has always been...well, pleasant. Recently certain things have become unpleasant. Now, it seems to me that the first thing we have to do is to separate the things that are pleasant from the things that are unpleasant.

     The scene changes to early morning. A paper boy rides past a store front window with a new sign in it that reads: "No Coloreds." It is a chilling scene.
     Pleasantville  is available from New Line Home Video on VHS and DVD.



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