Pleasantville (1998)


A pair of teens are transported into the world of a black and white 1950’s sitcom where their presence has some profound effects.

On the surface, Pleasantville is just another fluffy, wish fulfilment fantasy, but lurking beneath is some pretty smart and funny social commentary. Somewhat in the vein of Tim Burton’s work it examines the “suburban dream” of middle America, still clung to by many right-wing conservatives nicely represented by J. T. Walsh as “Big Bob” and his fascistic Chamber Of Commerce. He is the one to rally the middle class, white males of the community to try and preserve the status quo once the emancipated inhabitants of Pleasantville become the enemy, branded as “coloreds” in this 1950’s “utopia” that is completely devoid of black faces. The rest of the cast are equally good, especially Joan Allen as the homemaker tasting freedom for the first time, William H. Macy as her confused and exasperated husband and although Tobey Maguire is clearly only capable of the one character, Peter Parker is perfectly at home here.

I found the ending a little contrived and anticlimactic in an obvious attempt to ape Frank Capra, but Pleasantville is clever, witty and although only occasionally laugh out loud funny, deserving of two hours of anybody’s time.



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