Director: Gary Ross
Writer: Gary Ross
William H. Macy
What’s better? A so-so film with an original concept or a really fun movie with an unoriginal plot? “Pleasantville” starts with an interesting premise but unfortunately, Gary Ross directs his film into a marshmallow-coated, undemanding feature instead of really trying to be daring. It all starts with this geeky, idealist kid played by Tobey Maguire, one of the most promising young actors in Hollywood. He’s the perfect choice to portray this enthusiast, old-fashioned young dude who escapes from the gritty ’90s reality by watching reruns of ’50s sitcoms. As the film begins, he’s preparing to watch a marathon of his favorite show, “Pleasantville”. Only, he’ll have to get passed his sister, a promiscuous young girl played by the appropriately hot Reese Witherspoon, who invited some jock to watch MTV and make out. While fighting, they break the remote and just then, a Buscemiesque old man arrives and gives them a very special new remote that zaps them right into the fictional town of Pleasantville.
Hmm. First of all, I’m not sure that first twist is all that original. Doesn’t anyone remember the Schwarzenegger vehicle “Last Action Hero”, in which a kid is zapped into an action film? Anyway, Maguire and Witherspoon get into the lives of the wholesome kids of happy-smiley housewife Joan Allen and nice guy dad William H. Macy. They’re confronted to the innocence of the ’50s (well, the ’50s shown on TV). People are always happy, everything’s nice, men can expect to have their dinner on the table when they get home… But with the arrival of this pair of ’90s kids, things will change drastically. I don’t want to give away too much, so I’ll just mention that the general idea of the rest of the film is that as people change (through sex, art, etc.), they turn to color. It leads to some amusing scenes, but the filmmakers don’t go very far, and it gets a bit repetitive and predictable. Still, the visuals are amazing. It’s very cool to see people in color interacting with people who are still in black and white, and other stuff like that.
Actually, the film comes close to becoming really thought-provoking, when the changes start bothering some people. In a metaphor for racial segregation, B&W people start dissing colored people. Too bad this idea isn’t explored thoroughly. The film soon drifts back to an Hollywood happy end that’s actually pretty close to what you’d expect from a cheesy ‘50s sitcom. So, what would you rather watch, a (mostly) original concept developed into a flawed movie like this one or an unoriginal yet way more enjoyable flick like, say, “Rush Hour”? Personally, I’ll take the mindless fun, but a film like “Pleasantville” might still be worth seeing, if only for the movie it could have been.