Jan 28, 2011

[Movies] Pleasantville (1998)

Pleasantville (1998)The brilliance of movies as a communication medium is how well they can ingrain themselves in our memories and stay with us forever. We watch a lot of movies and TV shows in the course of our lives and yet certain ones tend to stand out compared to all the others. One way or another, movies get their message across and for those select people, those movies tend to resonate on an entirely different level.

It's always tricky for me to come up with a "top ten" list of my favorite movies of all time. The list is constantly changing and evolving based on what new movies come out and more importantly the kind of person that I happen to be right now. Our interests and sensibilities change slowly over time as well and so what we absolutely loved and lived by before may be different later one.

This was certainly one of those movies that has danced in and out of my virtual top ten list ever since I first saw it. It's definitely a good movie and it's a lot more meaningful than just being a movie with a great visual gimmick. And it's time that I made sure that a proper review for this great movie got posted here on the Geeky Guide.

Pleasantville is a 1998 comedy drama movie that was written, produced and directed by Gary Ross. Ross has mainly been a writer for movies like Big and Dave. This was his directorial debut and the movie went on to receive three Academy Awards nominations for Art Direction, Costume Design and Original Score.

Reese Witherspoon being interviewed at the pre...Image via WikipediaThe movie starts with twin siblings David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), who seem to be polar opposites. David is highly introverted and spends his days watching old 50's TV shows like Pleasantville. Jennifer is your typical teenager overly concerned with her appearance and her variable chances with boys. All this changes one rainy night when an argument over control of the TV leads to the remote getting broken. In a strange coincidence, a mysterious TV repair man (Don Knotts) shows up at that price moment offering to fix things. He provides a new remote control.

The two eventually argue over this new remote and this leads to them being transported into the Pleasantville TV show, which is in black and white. They find themselves fulfilling the roles of Bud and Mary Sue, the children of the protagonist family of the show as lead by George (William H. Macy) as the father and Betty (Joan Allen) as the mother. Now trapped in this odd, idyllic world, the two have to figure out how to make the most of their new environment. But they inadvertently start exposing the town to more modern ideas, resulting in a gradual change in the color and tone of the community, both metaphorically and literally.

In many ways, the movie felt like a two our metaphor for different concepts of the need to accept change, the oppression of the majority mindset and many other ideas. The director clearly had a lot of ideas that he wanted to convey and he masterfully utilized a mix of acting, dialogue and visual cues to tell the story. While we sort of expect this out of movies in general, I'm sure we can all relate to the fact that this is not often the case for most. There's a heck of a lot of crap stuff out there that don't even come close to the level of storytelling achieved in this movie.

Acting-wise, you're faced with much younger versions of Maquire and Witherspoon. Both did quite well in their respective roles and gave the characters a nice level of realism to the whole thing. And with each of them growing because of the changes they're effecting on the town around them, the movie did require a bit of expanded range on their parts, which they managed more than decently.

Supporting performance featured a lot of great talent for a movie which a highly unusual premise when you get down to it. Macy has always been consistent in terms of the kind of acting he can deliver, which is good but never amazing. I was more surprised and impressed by the performances of Joan Allen and Jeff Daniels. Allen was poignantly naive and vulnerable when she needed to be given the evolution of her character. And Daniels was delightfully precocious in his acting, sort of like a loyal dog. They really helped flesh out the story on a completely different angle that didn't seem too dependent on the teenagers - a slow evolution of thought to show the freedoms better relished when attained for the first time.

From start to finish, we're all in debt to Gary Ross for the tremendous vision he demonstrated in making this film. He had a powerful story to tell and he managed to find a stunning visual way to tell it in a manner that was striking and still beautiful. The movie has a lot to say and says it in a manner that is wonderfully eloquent and fulfilling. I'm sure that anyone giving this movie the proper time and focus that it deserves will walk away all the better because of it.

Pleasantville is a compelling piece of filmmaking, one that I will never regret watching again. It gets a full 5 striking colored artworks standing out against a monotone background out of a possible 5. The movie is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD.

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