Pleasantville

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Epinions Product Rating: Excellent
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"Pleasantville" -- Dreaming in Color, Living in Stone Cold Black & White

Mar 1, 2001 (Updated Mar 4, 2001)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Special Effects:
  • Suspense:

Pros:A visually stunning, well made, well acted film!

Cons:None that I can think of...

The Bottom Line: Great film for people of all ages! The film deserves more than one viewing...


Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

"Pleasantville" is one of the best movies of 1998. It presents us with an original idea for a film, and takes that idea to new levels -- making it whole, complex and stunning all on it's own. It's a film about ideas, about changing the world by changing yourself. And needless to say, I enjoyed this movie a lot.

"Pleasantville" opens up on the present day, introducing us to two teens getting ready for the weekend. Their Mom is going to be away and naturally it's party time. The girl is hoping to invite the local jock over to have a ‘fun' time while watching tv, and the young man who loves to watch this old "Leave It To Beaver" like sitcom called "Pleasantville," is hoping to take part in a 24 hour marathon that is celebrating the show. But there is also a Pleasantville trivia contest where the winner receives a hefty cash prize - and in the movie it looks like the young man may be able to win the contest.

Unfortunately a fight ensues between the siblings about who gets to watch what, and the result is a broken remote control. Now they can't watch anything, cause (as according to the young man) "tv's nowadays just don't work without a remote." And just then Don Knotts shows up at the door as a TV repairman -- offering them a strange solution. He gives them a new remote and of course, once again something goes wrong for the two siblings when they try to use it. They find themselves traped inside the world of "Pleasantville."

They are both caught off gaurd, and of course worried about their 'real lives.' The sister's life is definitely ruined as she is missing her date -- but maybe this won't be that bad for the brother -- for it seems that throughout his entire life he's always wanted to live the very image and ideal of "Pleasantville."

Knotts doesn't explain why he sends them back in time - he just says he needs someone like the young man who knows the "history" and the "trivia" of the show. And, because of the brother's knowledge he is able to get them through their first few days of this predicament - but the story naturally proves that one man can't control things.

So, we're now introduced to "Pleasantville" by the brother who leads his sister through this strange new (and old) world. And, like "Leave it to Beaver," this too is also a world of black & white television. We meet their "parents" played here by Joan Allen and William H. Macy, and we meet the other characters of the town as well - the malt shop owner (Jeff Daniels), and some of their neighbours. And, as I mentioned earlier we meet the sister's supposed boyfriend.

The boyfriend doesn't seem that bad to the sister, and ultimately the sister starts to feel a little "too at home" with their situation. Against her brother's demands that they lie as low as possible (as not to disturb the life and ideal of "Pleasantville") – she just can't help herself from reaching out and giving the young men of the town a push into the wild and more pleasurable side of life. Of course her gallivanting and free-spirited, liberating ways spread like wild fire and the people of the town are slowly affected as they all start turning into marvelous technicolor.

The spreading of color into this black and white town is further compounded by the fact that the brother tries to stop the sister from doing what she is doing - and the result of that is his own role as the brother - along with his duties, schoolwork and his job - lose his attention.

But perhaps this change is a good thing, as the brother soon begins to question them and the movie turns into a play on whether the change is good or not. The TV-repairman tries to stop them, but from the outside he can't do anything. Citizens of the town are divided as the questions of change are debated and the different sides of the argument eventually start a small town riot. Of course everything turn out okay, but along the way we're given some beautiful moments of drama, comedy and suspense.

But more importantly, as with "What Dreams May Come", the bulk of the story is told visually, through the transformation of the town from black & white to color. And the transition suits this story so well, not just on a simple motivational level, but on a deeper, more thought provoking plain. The filmakers here have found the perfect match between these two basic visual elements and they have mixed them together perfectly. Whether it's seeing fire for the first time; to seeing the different tones of color on one's own face; to seeing the colors of a painting or a rainbow - "Pleasantville" is visually stunning. The acting is top-notch, the storyline is touching, moving and funny, all around it's a great find in what turned out to be a fairly mediocre year. And with each viewing, "Pleasantville" improves with time. So catch it if you can - you'll be glad you did.

Grade: A

(Movie originally reviewed on November 23, 1998)


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older


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