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PLEASANTVILLE

SYNOPSIS:
David (Tobey Maguire) and his sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) are living a depressing existence with their angrily divorced mother. David is obsessed by a re-run 1950's sitcom called Pleasantville. While waiting for a one day marathon of the show to start, the remote is accidentally broken - just as a strange TV repairman (Don Knotts) appears at the door. Through his new "remote" David and Jennifer are transported into Pleasantville itself as Bud and Mary Sue Parker, the children of George (William H. Macy) and Betty (Joan Allen). They find a black-and-white world where the weather is always perfect, the roads go nowhere, there are no toilets and sex is unknown. But with the arrival of the newcomers changes start to occur, not least in the straight-laced diner owner, Mr. Johnson (Jeff Daniels).

"Exploding with originality and verve, Pleasantville is an absolute delight. In his directorial debut, Gary Ross has succeeded magnificently in bringing to the screen a simple story that is rich in its complexity, magical in its execution. From the clever and beautifully structured script, to the performances and technical effects, this film will capture your imagination, and leave you uplifted and enchanted. In this delectable journey where black and white life is simple and uncomplicated, we rediscover the marvels and challenges of the unknown through its engaging characters. Joan Allen is a standout as the perfect housewife, with top performances by William H. Macy, Jeff Daniel, Tobey Maguire & Reece Witherspoon. The concept of broadening horizons, taking risks and embracing change is beautifully handled, all the while complemented by Randy Newman's beautiful score. The effects and visuals are sensational, yet what dazzles overall, is the very essence and heart of the film. Pleasantville is a wonderful cinematic experience that you should not miss."
Louise Keller

"Pleasantville should be on every high school curriculum - and required viewing for all those in politics. It deals with some of the eternal truths, and handles them with intelligence, wit and skill. Much like Animal Farm, albeit with a different agenda, Pleasantville is a deceptively complex work, told with simple strokes. It’s a parable, a metaphor, a fable and a morality play all at once, glued together by some perceptive humour and sensational performances from the entire cast, and from Joan Allen in particular. The film can be enjoyed on a superficial, fun level, or it can be taken apart and analysed in search for its deeper meanings: there are references to fascism and totalitarianism, to the wilting effects of living in fear of change, to the downsides of individual freedom, to the joy of humour and irony, to the need for human fulfillment and to the glory of sexuality. And that’s just in the first half…. It is a film of great depth made with a light touch, and magical in the way only cinema can be magical. So if anyone ever tries to compare Pleasantville to any other film, don’t believe it. And for goodness sake, don’t miss it."
Andrew L. Urban

"There's so much depth in this beautifully textured, and highly original first feature by writer/director Gary Ross. As both a comment on the simplicity of postwar America, and a study of what makes us complete, Pleasantville is a film that is not only technically astonishing, but it's also a film where visuals and screenplay are perfectly intertwined. It's not simply a gimmicky film, during which the once black and white world of the fifties, with its colourless, moral high ground, changes to colour. Sure these moments are stunning to watch, and extraordinary to behold. But they serve Ross' tale well, and give the viewer a profound insight in the nature of these characters, and their yearning to be set free - morally, physically, emotionally and intellectually. Though the film does ultimately run out of steam, and one fears it tries too hard at times, it is still an engaging, moving and sharply observed charmer, full of wonderful visual details that herald the arrival of a major new talent. The performances are mostly topnotch, from the always superb William Macy and Joan Allen, who shine as Pleasantville's all-knowing parents; Reese Witherspoon is perfectly cast as the rebellious teenager who undergoes a huge transformation during her stay in this town; the film's most beautiful performance comes from Jeff Daniels as the soda fountain worker, who ultimately discovers his sense of independence and artistry. Unlike Peter Weir's more self-conscious Truman Show, Pleasantville is a finely textured, intelligent and emotionally resonant film, that is also one of the most visually breathtaking films of the year - with a topnotch script to match."
Paul Fischer

"Just weeks after Gus van Sant’s disastrous remake of Psycho, here's another movie that uses ‘colorisation’ as a potent if problematic metaphor for our attempts to improve on the past. Ultimately the idea of a television parallel world seems like a pretext: the real concern here is less with old sitcoms than with a distilled myth of the ‘50s as the Nerd Decade, a bland utopia where housewives stay home, sex is non-existent, and Father Knows Best. The plot that develops is partly an allegory for various actual conflicts of the time (anti-communism, the civil rights movement), though its simplified terms can be taken to mean almost anything. Earnestly preaching diversity and freedom, the film is shot through with a curious nostalgia. Pleasantville is simultaneously a repressive hell and an innocent Eden – while a prologue suggests that the crusades of the ‘60s have led only to the horribly Unpleasant modern world of pollution, unemployment and broken homes. The stunts with digital technology seem still more ambiguous. When people and objects suddenly appear in luscious computer-controlled color, they’re obviously more palpable, closer to life; yet the seamlessly artificial effect only enhances the unreal, spectral aura of this 'high concept' movie, set in a deliberately banal universe peopled with walking cliches. Contradictions and all, it’s a very watchable film, thanks to the fine ensemble cast, and especially Tobey Maguire as our representative from the ‘90s: a passive slacker who mostly sits round watching old TV shows, but who discovers in himself, at the crucial moment, an unexpected courage, wisdom and decency. With his not-quite-formed quality, his husky voice and sweetly foolish grin, Tobey Maguire embodies a pervasive spirit of vague yet poignant idealism – suggesting that this contrived, incoherent Hollywood fantasy might still possess some kind of soul."
Jake Wilson

"I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto... No, we're in Pleasantville - the dazzling creation of writer/director Gary Ross. In this amazing film, Ross perfectly captures an unreal world - yet one which eerily mirrors our own - and populates it with compelling characters. Pleasantville and its people are modelled on '50s American sitcoms, like Leave it to Beaver, or My Three Sons. But this is no sitcom film. Ross uses Pleasantville- a place unused to change - as a metaphor for certainty, order, conformity and (ultimately) tyranny. Some have seen the film as chronicling the change from 50s morality to 60s rebellion. I think that's too narrow. The themes addressed by the film (change, acceptance of difference and personal freedom among them) are far more universal. If I had one minor quibble, it was that some of Ross' imagery was rather heavy-handed on occasion. The film's centrepiece is its magical use of colour to tell the story. It's a visual feast - far more ambitious and imaginative than, say, Forrest Gump - and brought off with technical brilliance. The cast works perfectly together, with the performances uniformly excellent. And where was Joan Allen's name on the Oscar nominations list? Pleasantville is full of little pleasures, touching moments and grand ideas. A remarkable achievement and definitely a film not to miss."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 5
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

WILLIAM H.MACY INTERVIEW

PLEASANTVILLE (M15+)
(US)

CAST: William H. Macy, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, J.T. Walsh, Don Knotts, Marley Shelton, Jane Kaczmarek, Reese Witherspoon

DIRECTOR: Gary Ross

PRODUCER: Gary Ross, Jon Kilik, Robert J. Degus, Steven Soderbergh

SCRIPT: Gary Ross

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Lindley

EDITOR: William Godenberg

MUSIC: Randy Newman

VISUAL EFFECTS SUPERVISOR: Chris Watts
COLOUR EFFECTS DESIGNER: Michael Southard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jeannine Oppewall

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: February 25, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: Sept 7, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

RRP: $24.95 (March 13, 2000)







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