Revisiting “Pleasantville” (1998): An Instant Modern Classic

pleasantville01I would consider Gary Ross’ “Pleasantville” as a modern day masterpiece. The director, now (who is more popularly known to today’s cinema fans as the one who did “The Hunger Games” last year), reached a career best back in 1998 (in my opinion one of the strongest years in modern day cinema) with this instant classic. I decided to revisit the lovely town of “Pleasantville” last night (out of pure boredom) and I realised that the movie really is something extraordinary. Though the film wasn’t a huge hit back in the 1990s, the film becomes more brilliant as the years go by. So if you’re looking for a great 90s movie that balances both drama and comedy that sends out an important message, visit “Pleasantville” because its the way to go.

pleasantville-movie-picture-12Budd and Mary Sue. Well in the movie, their real names are David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon). But for those who are not aware with the story of “Pleasantville”, it tells the story of two American teenagers from the 1990s who gets zapped into the fictional classic 1950s sitcom “Pleasantville” to be taught an important lesson by a mysterious cable guy. While living in the idealistic town the two’s modern day morals clashes with the perfect family morals taught to the citizens of the community. As they show them what it’s like to be a modern day teenager, the two discover things about themselves as they corrupt the black-and-white-town making them slowly turn into living colour.

600full-pleasantville-screenshotJoan Allen as Betty Parker. The best thing about “Pleasantville” is the snubbed performance of Joan Allen as the confused house wife Betty Parker. Playing Budd and Mary Sue’s fictional mom in the television series, Betty begins to learn a lot from her kids as she sets her limited 1950s house wife mind free. She begins to explore her sexuality, she dares to test her role in the household and addresses her true feelings for a man who is not her husband, Bill Johnson (played by Jeff Daniels). Joan Allen steals the entire show from such a splendid cast, giving out her all in a performance that is inspiring and heart breaking. She breaks free from the 1950s suppression put upon her and becomes a modern day mother through the duration of the film. Her supporting performance is subtle and nearly flawless.

pleasantville_segregated_court_roomThe Message of the Perfect Town. Though a lot of people debate about “Pleasantville’s” message, there really is just one: being yourself. The film tests the entire array of characters as those who are “coloured” are considered to be those who are immoral and bad. A lot of people look at this analogy as something that may be a message about racism or maybe homosexuality, but people shouldn’t read into it that deep. This is because the message of “Pleasantville” is layed out plain and simple: be yourself. Do not let anybody tell you who things are suppose to be. Don’t be suppressed. Don’t let things be a certain way because that is what is expected. BE. YOURSE:F.

pleasantville_photos_346Cinema Meets the Best of Both Worlds. Before this film, the most popular and recent use of colour/black-and-white in movies is that red coated girl in “Schindler’s List” (1993). Before that, it was shown in that famous scene in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) where we see Dorothy exiting her monochromatic world into the wonderful land of Oz. However, there is something that “Pleasantville” does that uses this way of filmmaking to its full effect. Though it did have the most opportunities to do this (because of its storyline), the film is wildly cinematic and this effect was actually written in within the screenplay. It works, and it’s gorgeous to look at. Below is one of the many great scenes in the film that uses this effect well:

Reese-in-Pleasantville-reese-witherspoon-5771309-1280-720I Hate To Say Goodbye. Whenever the movie ends, I always feel sad. I never like saying good bye to the world that makes me happy. This kind of filmmaking gets to me all the time. Plus the elements of the film hits a soft spot for me. It has modern performances and a message that will really make you feel good, but it also has such nostalgia for the 1950s that warms my heart. I recommend this movie if you’re bored and not doing anything right now. It’s worth the watch, so please let me know what you think!


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