"Pleasantville" (1998) | Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #135 Gem Mint 10.0

“Pleasantville“ (1998)

Director: Gary Ross

Writer: Gary Ross

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, Reese Witherspoon, William H. Macy, Paul Walker

Rated: PG-13 for some thematic elements emphasizing sexuality, and for language

Runtime: 2h 4m

Genre: Comedy | Drama | Fantasy

Country: United States

Language: English

Available on: Various VOD platforms

"Two 1990s teenage siblings find themselves in a 1950s sitcom, where their influence begins to profoundly change that complacent world."

You might like this if you like: Comedies, Drama, Fantasy, 'The Twilight Zone', 'Black Mirror', 'WandaVision', Gary Ross, Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, Reese Witherspoon, William H. Macy, Paul Walker

Reese Witherspoon (left) & Tobey Maguire (right) in 'Pleasantville' (1998)

I remember being slightly obsessed with this film as a kid. Specifically remember renting it A LOT from the local video stores in Ojai (back when they existed - there were 4 that I can remember including Blockbuster). I think by that time I’d been familiar with Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon and were most likely the draws I had to watching the film in the first place.

As a kid, I think it really was the actors and fantasy that drew me to watching in the first place. Years later, I’d come to appreciate the greater themes of race, despite the irony of not having any people of color in the film, on at least a more conscious level.

Joan Allen (left) & William H. Macy (right) in 'Pleasantville' (1998)

Though that was something that did bother me… It was so strange to me that their biggest theme was about race and color yet there were NO people of color of at least any significance to the story/themes they were trying to tell. Parts did feel very underscoring of women, like Reese Witherspoon’s role could’ve gone further developed, and as my fiancée pointed out, Tobey Maguire didn’t need to take up as much space as he did. They also picked a time period on top of it being the 90s that wasn’t too uplifting of women either. They did acknowledge the cooking thing a bit, and how a woman should NOT be expected do these things like make dinner every night, but in the end I found Joan Allen’s role quite empowering.

I do love Jeff Daniels’ character! Possibility the first thing I saw him in, but he’s definitely my favorite character in this film. Really sums up the whole movie alone.

Paul Walker in 'Pleasantville' (1998)

Magnificent art direction and is just eye candy to watch, especially as a young child. The mixture of color, that first rose and the lake. My favorite visual scene is when some of the people who haven’t turned color yet are breaking everything in Jeff Daniels’ store and it’s these bright, colorful items and his paintings and just the contrast of the black and white characters doing it is a visual masterpiece I can’t get out of my head!

Paul Walker is just the sweetest to watch in this! I think it has more of an effect now with his unfortunate passing. His whole arc with Reese’s character is so much fun to watch unfold and is usually found at most of the biggest changing points in the film like the basketball court or rose scene I mentioned above.

Jeff Daniels in 'Pleasantville' (1998)

Deeply inspiring and moving, despite its painful hypocrisy of lacking people of color in their film, it’s a film that I will continue to study for its art form, creativity and execution.

Written by Sam Gall on Sept 24, 2021

CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0

"Gary Ross (Big, Dave) makes an impressive directing debut with this charming, nicely executed fable, which contrasts values of the 1950s with those of the 1990s." - Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.Com

"An inverted fish out of water tale - like taking a lion raised by sheep & putting it in the middle of the savannah." - Karina Montgomery, Cinerina

"Ingeniously conceived and impressively executed, "Pleasantville" is a provocative, complex and surprisingly anti-nostalgic parable wrapped in the beguiling guise of a commercial high-concept comedy." - Joe Leydon, Variety

"Supported by excellent production design and cutting-edge tech wizardry, this ingenious film is a clever multileveled parable about the Brave New World of modern life." - E! Staff, E! Online

Official Trailer:

Behind the Scenes:

#Pleasantville #ReeseWitherspoon #TobeyMaguire #JeffDaniels #GaryRoss #WilliamHMacy #JoanAllen #PaulWalker #WandaVision

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