There are better things; like silly, or sexy, or dangerous....
Pleasantville is basically the story of fraternal twins, David and Jennifer, played by Toby Maguire and Reese Witherspoon (looking extraordinarily young, since this is almost ten years old), who end up sucked into a 1950's sitcom, 'Pleasantville', where everyone is pleasant, the neighbors are kind, the kids are well-behaved, and the parents sleep in separate beds. Although David is an aficionado of the series, Jennifer is very different from her twin; at one point in the film she describes herself as a slut, and I think most people would say it's a fairly accurate description of her character at the beginning of the film.
Out of boredom and a desire for disruption, Jennifer introduces sex to the world of Pleasantville, which results in a rather odd scene where she must explain the facts of life to her on-screen mother. David, although he tries not to disrupt the world, ends up doing so anyway, although in a slightly more reactive way than his sister Jennifer. As he explains the effects of her actions - rain and fire for a start, neither of which has ever been seen in Pleasantville before - he ends up giving the people of Pleasantville more information than is strictly necessary. As the film progresses, he loses his boundaries and reservations over disrupting the world; the people of Pleasantville are more than anything like naive children, in a lot of ways, and it is out of a desire to give them something better that David acts the way he does. The books in the library, which were currently only stage props, blank pages behind empty covers, begin filling in when Jennifer tells them what she knows of the story and David finishes it off. The basketball team, which never, ever, misses a basket or loses a game, instantly lose their super-human abilities the instant they learn about sex, or anything in the program goes against what they believe. And finally, people start changing from black and white to technicolor. Whenever Jennifer and David contradict the way the series goes, something more happens. Whenever a character unleashes an emotion or part of themselves previously unexpressed, they become a little more colored, signifying their change in thinking and their view of the world.
The Mayor and the people who are still black and white become threatened by this, and the measures they put in place and the actions they take smack of the racism found in our history. The people who have changed are refered to as 'coloreds', and there are even signs up saying 'no coloreds'. The dramatic ending, and the changes made in the characters of Pleasantville and in David and Jennifer themselves are fascinating to watch. The film has a fair amount of depth to it, and does give you a lot to think about, while still remaining fairly amusing. The on screen father begins every episode by coming home, hanging his hat on a peg and saying "Honey, I'm home!", knowing that his wife will be there with a hot meal prepared. His shock, the first time she isn't there, is fairly comical. The actor pulls it off incredibly well, however, and the basic idea behind the scene, the amount that this man is upset and threatened by such a change to his familiar world comes off very well. He's almost like a child learning that mommy doesn't know everything and the world isn't fair.
In summary, this is an amazing film. The ideas behind it and the messages within it are well thought out, and the characters and actors are amazing. The film has aged well in the years since 1998, and the special effects, although simple, don't look at all outdated. The way people change from black and white to colour, and the way some scenes contain people and objects that are a mixture of both still look just as effective as they must have done back then. It's definitely worth watching. If nothing else, you can count how many times the words "swell" and "gee whiz" are used, which is a fairly amusing way to spend a few hours in itself, particularly as the teenagers in question really mean it.
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