Pleasantville

Fantastical writer Gary Ross (Big, Dave) makes an auspicious directorial debut with this inspired and oddly touching comedy about two '90s kids (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) thrust into the black-and-white TV world of Pleasantville, a Leave It to Beaver-style sitcom complete with picket fences, corner malt shop, and warm chocolate chip cookies. When a somewhat unusual remote control (provided by repairman Don Knotts) transports them from the jaded real world to G-rated TV land, Maguire and Witherspoon are forced to play along as Bud and Mary Sue, the obedient children of George and Betty Parker (William H. Macy and Joan Allen). Maguire, an obsessive Pleasantville devotee, understands the need for not toppling the natural balance of things; Witherspoon, on the other hand, starts shaking the town up, most notably when she takes basketball stud Skip (Paul Walker) up to Lover's Lane for some modern-day fun and games. Soon enough, Pleasantville's teens are discovering sex along with--gasp!--rock & roll, free thinking, and soul-changing Technicolor. Filled with delightful and shrewd details about sitcom life (no toilets, no double beds, only two streets in the town), Pleasantville is a joy to watch, not only for its comedy but for the groundbreaking visual effects and astonishing production design as the town gradually transforms from crisp black and white to glorious color. Ross does tip his hand a bit about halfway through the film, obscuring the movie's basic message of the unpredictability of life with overloaded and obvious symbolism, as the black-and-white denizens of the town gang up on the "coloreds" and impose rules of conduct to keep their strait-laced town laced up. Still, the characterizations from the phenomenal cast--especially repressed housewife Allen and soda-shop owner Jeff Daniels, doing some of their best work ever--will keep you emotionally invested in the film's outcome, and waiting to see Pleasantville in all its final Technicolor glory. --Mark Englehart

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Production: New Line Cinema
  Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 18 wins & 41 nominations.
 
IMDB:
7.5
Metacritic:
71
Rotten Tomatoes:
85%
PG-13
Year:
1998
124
Website
13,323 Views

David/Bud:
What's going on?

Jennifer/Mary Sue:
I'm not sure. Um… They wanna ask you a question... I didn't know how to handle it. So....

David/Bud:
Sure. [to the others] How you doin'? You wanted to ask me something?

Tommy:
How'd you know about the fire?

David/Bud:
What?

Tommy:
How'd you know how to put it out and all?

David/Bud:
Oh. Well — where I used to live, that's just what firemen did.

[The kids all murmur together]

Tommy:
And where's that?

David/Bud:
Um... Outside of Pleasantville.

Tommy:
Well, what's outside of Pleasantville?

David/Bud:
Look it doesn't matter. It's not important.

Tommy:
What's outside of Pleasantville?

David/Bud:
It's really not important.

Margaret:
What's outside of Pleasantville?

David/Bud:
There are some places … that the road doesn't go in a circle. There are some places where the road keeps going.

Margaret:
Keeps going?

David/Bud:
Yeah, yeah — it just keeps going — it all keeps going. Roads and rivers and …

Will:
Like the "Mighty Mississippi."

David:
What?

[Will holds up a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn]

David/Bud:
[to Jennifer/Mary Sue] I thought the books were blank?

Will:
They were.

Jennifer/Mary Sue:
Okay, this was NOT my fault. When they asked me what it was about I didn't remember because I read it like back in tenth grade. When I told them what I did remember, thats when the pages filled in.

David/Bud:
The pages filled in?

Jennifer/Mary Sue:
But like only up to the part with the raft, because that's as far as I read.

Tommy:
Do you know how it ends?

David/Bud:
Yeah… I do.

Margaret:
So how does it end?

David/Bud:
Well, um — okay, let's see…. they were running away — Huck and — and the slave.... they … they were going up the river, trying to get free…. and — in trying to get free … they see that they're sort of free already…. [The pages fill in by themselves, completing the book] Oh my God.

Big Bob:
This is not the answer, people. No matter how upset we may get, or how frustrated we may be, we're not gonna solve our problems out in the street. It's just the wrong way to do it. We have to have a "Code of Conduct" we can all agree to live by. Now, I asked George and Burt here to sketch out some ideas — and I think they've done a terrific job. If we all agree on these then we can take a vote and I think we'll start to move in the right direction. "ONE: All public disruption and acts of vandalism are to cease immediately. TWO: All citizens of Pleasantville are to treat one another in a courteous and pleasant manner...

[The kids are hiding in the ruined malt shop]

Lisa Anne:
"Courteous and Pleasant manner." That doesn't sound too bad.

David/Bud [reading the new Code of Conduct]:
"THREE: The area commonly known as Lover's Lane as well as the Pleasantville Public Library shall be closed until further notice. FOUR: The only permissible recorded music shall be the following: Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Jack Jones, the marches of John Phillips Sousa or The Star Spangled Banner. In no event shall any music be tolerated that is not of a temperate or "pleasant" nature."

Kids:
Oh my gosh.... No....

David/Bud:
"FIVE: There shall be no public sale of umbrellas or preparation for inclement weather of any kind. SIX: No bedframe or mattress may be sold measuring more than 38 inches wide. SEVEN: The only permissible paint colors shall be BLACK, WHITE or GRAY, despite the recent availability of certain alternatives. EIGHT: All elementary and high school curriculums shall teach the "non-changist" view of history — emphasizing "continuity" over "alteration." Wow.

David/Bud:
I've got something to say!

Big Bob:
Very well.

David/Bud:
You don't have a right to do this. I mean, I know you want it to stay pleasant around here, but — there are so many things … that are so much better. Like silly, or sexy, or dangerous … or brief. And every one of those things is in you all the time, if you just have the guts to look for them.

Big Bob:
That's enough.

David/Bud:
I thought I was allowed to defend myself.

Big Bob:
You're not allowed to lie.

David/Bud:
I'm not lying. You see those faces up there? They're no different than you are, they just happen to see something inside themselves…

Big Bob:
[bangs gavel] I said that's enough.

David/Bud:
Here, I'll show you. Dad?

George:
Yeah, Bud?

David/Bud:
It's okay Dad, just listen a sec. I know you miss her, I mean, you told me you did. But maybe it's not just the cooking, or the cleaning, that you miss. Maybe it's something else. Maybe you can't even describe it. Maybe you only know it when it's gone. Maybe it's like there's a whole piece of you that's missing too. Look at her, Dad. Doesn't she look pretty like that? Doesn't she look … just as beautiful as the first time you met her? Do you really want her back the way she was? Doesn't she look just wonderful? [he nods] Now don't you wish you could tell her that? [he nods, and suddenly is colored]

Big Bob:
[bangs his gavel] You're out of order!

David/Bud:
Why am I out of order?

Big Bob:
Because I'm not gonna let you turn this courtroom into a circus!

David/Bud:
Well, I don't think it's a circus, and I don't think they do, either. [David turns to look at the crowd, where many of the black-and-white people are changing into color. There are gasps and murmurs. Jennifer grins]

Big Bob:
[bangs the gavel] This behavior must stop at once!

David/Bud:
But see? That's just the point! It can't stop at once, because it's in you, and you can't stop something that's inside you.

Big Bob:
It is not inside me!

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