Movie Review: Pleasantville

My first movie of 2022 was Pleasantville (New Line Cinema, 1998). I haven’t seen this movie in a really long time (probably decades).

“When 90s teens David and Jennifer get zapped into the perfect suburbia of the black and white ’50s sitcom, Pleasantville, what results is a ‘visionary adventure’. Pleasantville’s perfect people include a mild-mannered soda jerk, a socially repressed mom, and a father who always knows best. But, when ’90s pop culture clashes with ’50s family values, chaos ensues, turning the town of Pleasantville upside down and black and white into color.”

This movie was actually one of several sent to me as a gift, intended to watch “together” (we both press play at the same time and chat about the movie as it plays, but not actually streaming or sharing a screen). The note attached with the movie reads: “I haven’t seen this one in FOREVER. Such a visually impressive film and yet another great cast. Curious to see how the themes have held up. It’s probably been at least 10 years since I’ve seen this, so it’ll be fun to watch it with a different (older) point of view. Also, I ❤ that the back of this DVD is SO PROUD of their interactive menus – so cute lol”.

I included the comments from my friend because after we watched this movie, I felt like these comments were definitely applicable. The movie truly is a visually impressive film, especially several of the scenes involving the mix of black and white and color, like when David reapplies his mom’s black and white make up because her skin has turned into color. That particular scene was such a strong scene to me because of how intimate it is, with the intimacy not from sexual content but from a family member working so carefully to help another family member hide who they truly are from another family member. David and his mom both want her to be able to be who she truly is but they both know that things in their family will be so fragile if she walks into the living room as she is in full color while her husband is still only in black and white.

Some people learned beauty from sex, some learned from books, some from the idea of exploration, some from art, some from the rain, some from just the beauty in the world around them. I really enjoyed how Pleasantville demonstrated that different things matter to different people and how beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

I think my favorite part of the whole movie is when Jennifer is upstairs in her room, reading, and Skip shows up outside her house, trying to convince her to go have sex with him. Jennifer turns him down to finish reading the book and that’s her defining moment of, “maybe there’s more to me than I think”. Granted, I am a notorious book lover and I’m going to cheer any time someone chooses books over pretty much anything else, but it was still such a perfect example of learning something about yourself that you might not have expected. And then, later, when the book burnings are happening, she saved that book because it was the first thing she’d ever read. Though, I do have to wonder about her decision to stay in Pleasantville, but then after the several weeks (or even months) they’d spent in the show, it had only been the first hour of the marathon, so maybe Jennifer will have plenty of time to go to college and learn a lot and then still make it back to her own time and house by the end of the marathon like 16 hours later. I would like to think she makes it back after getting a law degree or something and then comes back and does really well on her SATs/ACTs and goes on to be a massive success. Maybe she becomes Elle Woods!

Overall, I would say this movie is a solid 3 on my rating scale. I’m happy I own it now and will likely watch it again in the future.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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