You may look at shows like "Leave it to Beaver" or "The Partridge Family" and note how incredibly artificial they look. You may point out the sheer "perfectness" of it all and laugh at how pathetic it all seems. Pleasantville does just this, but on the big screen. It makes fun of about every aspect you can think of, joined by a strong cast and rich integration of black and white and color.
The way Maguire and Witherspoon were placed in the show was a bit corny, but nothing could be done about that. It was almost immediately forgotten as they are thrust into the black and white town of Pleasantville, and immediately begin to criticize it. Several scenes are extremely funny; Pleasantville truly does represent some of the older television shows. Every little detail is silly and look for things in the background that are not obvious upon first look.
Maguire, Witherspoon, and especially Allen deliver strong performances. Maguire is probably the least impressive of the group but he still does a good job. Allen is the lead emotional character in the film and is truly believable, even if she is supposed to be a bland television wife. Macey fits his role perfectly and one of the best scenes is where he goes out into the rain asking for his dinner. Jeff Daniels does a respectable job as well but his character seemed a little too loose compared to the rest of the "perfect" townspeople. His inability to do tasks that were not assigned to him was supposed to represent his linear lifestyle but ends up portraying him as a blubbering idiot. However, as the film continues, his character develops rather nicely.
At first, everything is black and white. But as Witherspoon's character begins to spread her ideas, things transfer to color. Respect should be given to the people in charge of this task, mixing black and white and color seamlessly. Some people had to be color, others had to be grayscale, as well as the buildings and bushes and sky. Though they may not look like they compete with sci-fi blockbusters, the graphics were not easily done. It's stunning to watch the integration, especially as it progresses throughout the movie.
What might disappoint some viewers is that Pleasantville is not a straight-out comedy. It deals with aspects that are not expressed in the previews including sex, prejudice, and even rape. Though most of the movie is acceptable for some ages, there are a few scenes that parents might object to. I was rather taken aback by some of the scenes in Pleasantville, especially the ones based upon sex. The scene where the guys were trying to rape Allen was the only one that seemed a little too crude, however. The other problem was the conclusion to the movie. A lot of areas were not explained, leaving several loose ends. Overall, the ending could have been better.
The first half of Pleasantville is definitely more enjoyable than the second but, whether you go see it for comedy or drama, you won't be disappointed.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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