Pleasantville (1998)

Pleasantville

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Cast: Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, Jeff Daniels

Synopsis: Two 90s LA teens get sucked into their TV and find themselves in Pleasantville, a black and white 1950s-esque TV show where everything is perfect because no-one has had an orgasm.

Everybody wishes that life could be more perfect. I wish life could be more perfect when I’m bored at work and my editor is giving me the stink-eye. I wish life could be more perfect when the police arrest crack-heads on my doorstep. I even wish life could more when I see a dead cat floating down the canal in the park near my apartment. Unfortunately life, like Halle Berry’s filmography, is not perfect. Pleasantville is an interesting film because it examines the costs of perfection and why life is so much more interesting and beautiful when there’s diversity and when crazy shit happens.

At times, the film gets very heavy handed with its message which can get quite annoying. I know racial segregation is bad. I don’t need the characters to tell me that it’s wrong to separate coloured people from monotone people…I’ve seen 12 Years a Slave….I have enough white guilt to last me a lifetime. If you can ignore the preachiness of the film, however, Pleasantville can be very enjoyable to watch as it manages to balance laughs with stunning visual imagery.

From a visual standpoint, this film does some really interesting things with colour. I can’t say for sure if there was or was not any digital trickery or if it was simply the lemon haze I was smoking, but when colour is used in this film it really pops. The first use of red for the rose is particularly mesmerising and the scene with the playing cards was weirdly orgasmic…which was kind of appropriate what with the whole ‘fuck until you see colours’ thing.

On the comedy side of things, this film does a good job of poking fun at the differences between America in the 90s and the 50s without really coming to a conclusion about which is better. Sure, teenage slutiness and MTV was rampant in the 90s but you know what was rampant in the 50s? Racism. Sure, breakfast was more traditionally American in the 50s but you know what else is as American as maple syrup covered bacon? Diabetes. The film turns the idea of ‘the good old days’ on its head by showing both the positives and negatives of each era and, thanks to a wry wit, it manages to so in a way which is amusing and engaging which is all you can really hope for when it comes to comedy.

High-lights:

  • When Reese Witherspoon’s crush calls her a bitch.
  • The film made me appreciate how beautiful colours are. I know that sounds cheesy but can you imagine being completely blind to colour and then suddenly waking up and seeing red or green? Your mind would be blown.
  • The scene with the art book was a stroke of genius.
  • Fiona Apple’s cover of Across the Universe is surprisingly good.

Downers:

  • Preachy.
  • Oh Shit that’s Paul Walker! Oh shit….that’s Paul Walker. Sad face.
  • Those kids have a terrible mum….she doesn’t even realise one of her kids is still stuck in TV land.
  • It upsets me to think that there are teens out there as slutty as Reese Witherspoon in this movie. I blame MTV. Everyone should have a slutty phase but it should be in college when your parents and elderly relatives won’t find out about it.

Summary:

Pleasantville is a cute and quirky little film from the 90s that should be easy viewing for everybody. There isn’t anything particularly unlikeable about it but, unfortunately, it falls short of being one of the greats of the 90s. However, the film will be a lot more enjoyable if you’re baked because then you’ll be able to truly appreciate the film’s use of colour and some of its more artistic aims. If you’re not into that sort of stuff, then at least watch it to see Reese act like a teen ho and get called a bitch.

7/10

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1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Drama, Good

One response to “Pleasantville (1998)

  1. Tom

    haah that last sentence is as good of a recommendation and ringing endorsement for a film i’ve seen in a minute. Nice work man! Good review

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