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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).

"Pleasantville is a magical experience, engulfing us in a satirical world of a heightened reality. Enjoyable on two levels, superficially it is a warm and involving tale about characters being trapped in a fictional universe. A little like Alice in Wonderland; here there's no Mad Hatter's Tea Party but the revelation of colour in a black and white world. Colour is in itself a character, and a seductive one. The performances are wonderful (Tobey Maguire, Reece Witherspoon perfect as the teens; Joan Allen, William Macey and Jeff Daniels poignant), while the technical achievements are startling. A genuinely feel-good movie, Pleasantville charms by its innovation, imagination and sheer entertainment.

The Art of Pleasantville offers an insight into how the special effects are achieved. Producer Bob Degus and Colour Effects Designer Michael Southard introduce scenes that allow us to see what the actors saw as they made the film. This is followed by the completed scene that shows the integration of colour and black and white. They call the process 'make up on' and 'make up off', and we learn that for some of the sequences, a special green make up was created to match Joan Allen's skin tone. In the scene when Tobey Maguire puts make up onto Allen's face, he is, in fact applying the green-tone make up, which on screen appears as a flesh tone. In a later scene, when Jeff Daniels wipes it off, the flesh tone is revealed. This means that for some vital scenes, Allen actually has a totally green face. It's fascinating. Who would think that the effects were created this way?

DOP John Lindley describes the difference in how the film was lit, making allowances for the black and white scenes as opposed to the colour scenes. In some of the black and white scenes, every light was hooked up to dimmers, so the hard and soft light could be controlled. He describes scenes such as the soda shop, when 'colour characters' and 'black and white characters' are seen simultaneously in a small space, and how the lighting had to deal with the differences. We see the book containing all the storyboards memories of good times on a good movie, Linley says. We also hear from Frank Romero, the artist who created the mural.

Raised in a screenwriter household, it was part of every day life for director, writer Gary Ross to be dragged to arthouse films with subtitles and to be immersed in a filmic environment as he was growing up. We learn this and hear his influences and thoughts in a fluent and intelligent director's commentary, which gives a comprehensive insight into the creation of Pleasantville. Ross takes pleasure in finding a high concept premise and using it as a catalyst for human behaviour.

Pleasantville is more than just a pleasant experience it's a moving, enjoyable and memorable outing."
Louise Keller

Published February 15, 2001

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


RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes


DVD RELEASE: January 8, 2001

Director Commentary
The Art of Pleasantville special efefcts, shooting, printing, storyboards, mural
Music Video
Dolby Digital 5.1/Doby Surround 2.0

English Subtitles

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