Directed by: Gary Ross
Once upon a time in black and white America, the squeaky clean, preppy image was all the rage. Think poodle skirts and pony tails. A time when housewives made their husband's dinner and never got jobs or had a thought in their head. When the men-folk did all the thinkin' and the working'. A time when Americans trusted their President.
Maybe this is a 'stepford-wives' type view, but denial was so in fashion back then, it was hard to ignore.
Enter young David, whose late 90's broken home is crying out for help. He dreams every day of entering that plastic-perfect grey toned world...so much so that he's obsessed with an old TV show called Pleasantville. Hey wait a minute, gee willickers, that's the name of the movie! Well kid, you're right.
David (Maguire) and his very modern and forward thinking sister Jennifer (Witherspoon) get sucked into that world of muted colour and muted emotion when a mysterious TV repairman (played expertly by Don Knotts) pops up with a very special remote control.
Jennifer realises straight away that the townspeople aren't happy and that everyone has their real selves locked up deep inside. David refuses to believe that, wanting his escapist reality to be just that and as far away from his own life as possible. However, David warms to the idea when he realises that free will is more important than perfection.
Once the two teens start unlocking the townspeople of Pleasantville, they get a little more than they bargained for, including racism and anarchy. Colours start appearing here and there, with film-makers using stunning, yet simple, special effects to illustrate the symbolic changes happening around the characters.
One of my favourite actresses, Joan Allen, plays the part of a devoted housewife to perfection and manages to capture the desperate, trapped feeling that so many women of that time were repressing. William H. Macy in one of his earlier roles, is able to make his confused and ignorant character develop some feelings of his own, realistically, by the end of the movie.
Jeff Daniels also has a part as an artistic diner owner who never knew that there was even such a thing as art before Maguire and Witherspoon's characters descended on the fake town. He always surprises me in various roles, always putting his whole heart into it. He never fails to be completely charming, even in Speed!
I think Pleasantville definitely fits into that 'modern classic' place. It's a fairytale but it also carries some hefty messages about sexuality, race, acceptance and self-awareness.
I think this is probably one of my favourite movies...one I can definitely recommend to a wide audience and watch again and again.
4/5 Black and White (with a little red) STARS!