Film of the day:
It’s likely that the reason why “Pleasantville” wasn’t a commercial success was due to the fact that it was set inside a TV show made in the 1950s, and most of it was in black and white. Back in 1998, people wanted loud disaster flicks more than they wanted Pleasantville’s creative originality and logic.
The premise: Don Knotts shows up, and gives Tobey Maguire a “special remote”, and as Tobey and his sister Reese Witherspoon fight for control of the TV, they get transported into a black and white 1950s television series. This premise was rather unorthodox for most Hollywood films in 1998, but where the film progressed toward was unlike anything else captured on movie screens at that time.
“We’re supposed to be at home, David. We’re supposed to be in color!”
As the two are abruptly thrust into this world, they instantly discover that their cultures, their backgrounds, and their ways of living are far different from the world of Pleasantville’s. It isn’t long before the both of them start making decisions that start to influence the world around them. As a result, Pleasantville’s society begins to transform.
In a land filled with gray-scale, people and objects began to turn into color. Pleasantville starts to become not so pleasant anymore, as the citizens of the town begin to notice the change. The population discovers sex. The pages in the empty books begin to fill with words. A black and white tree is set aflame, with its flames in color.
As more people begin to turn into color, the citizens begin to segregate. Books that now feature rich and compelling stories are thrown into fire. Works of beautiful art are destroyed and torn to pieces. A revolt against color begins.
The situations in the film can be compared a lot to our everyday society, especially today’s society. As we abandon our less traditional ways of life and adapt to new ones, many battles and fights erupt over the change. Chaos and unacceptable begin to reign supreme.
The film is also both a scary and beautiful portrayal of people discovering how to be themselves, and how to accept each other. It manages to be so moving at times, that it’s hard to not become overwhelmed with emotion.
There is one scene in particular where Tobey Maquire’s character is in the kitchen with his TV mother, and she turns around and looks at him. At that moment, we see that unlike everything and everyone else around her, she is no longer black and white, and she begins to weep.
Gary Ross both wrote and directed the film, and his effort and passion for creating cinema shows. He not only creates a compelling story, but the world that he transforms is both deep and rich. The characters he depicts in the film end up becoming entirely memorable as well.
“What’s outside of Pleasantville?” “There are some places that the road doesn’t go in a circle. There are some places where the road keeps going.”
If Pleasantville had been released in today’s world, it would have not only had been a commercial success. It would have reached a lot more people, and just maybe, it would have made more people realize what society should be like: A more loving and accepting place.
It is ironic that in today’s world, a film that was made 13 years ago is more relevant than it ever has been before.
Starring Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, William H. Macy, Joan Allen, Jeff Daniels, and Don Knotts. Directed by Gary Ross.