I didn't know whether to classify this as a fantasy, comedy or drama. I finally settled on drama because of how moving this film is. Two 90's kids played by Toby Maguire and Reese Witherspoon are transported back in time to a black and white TV show called 'Pleasantville', The girl is a fast track popular girl while her brother is the geek. At first he is the only one to guide them in this strange world since he has been a fan of the show for years. Slowly, as their 90's style and freedom affect those around them, color creeps into Pleasantville. There are many reactionary townsfolk dead set against the changes while many of the youths embrace the new and exciting. There are many allegories to the Bible, particularly Genesis with the introduction of sin into paradise. There is even a scene where a girl give an apple to the boy. Tobey Maguire plays David, a bit of a geek especially in the eyes of his popular sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon). He loves the old black and white TV show Pleasantville, partially because it portrays a town that is free from the problems of the real world. When he is given a remote control by a strange little TV repair man (Don Knotts) both he and his sister are sucked into the program, turning black and white in the process. While Jennifer always felt in control in the real world she is force to seek the advice of her brother in order to survive in this odd world of fifties perfection. They kids find the changes extremely odd. Breakfast is a huge plate of pancakes, bacon and eggs, enough to clog anyone's arteries. Clothing is poodle skirts, men where jackets and ties all the time and the teenagers do not seem to know anything about sex. The world of Pleasantville is so beguine that the fire department does little more than rescues a cat or two from trees. As the story progresses David learns that this is not such a perfect world as his sister finds out that her material obsessions she held so dear in the rear world where not as important as people. Slowly as reality creeps into Pleasantville color begins to appear. Those that stubbornly remain black and white find that they are prejudiced against the tide of change.
The performances are fantastic. Every part played to perfection. The case includes William H. Macy, Jeff Daniels and Joan Allen. The film was originally done all in color and the color was removed by computer. The first appearances of color show the subtle changes taking place in the town where everything is perfect and nothing need ever change. Soon, the girl from the 90's finds herself and begins to grow out of the self describe slut she was. Allen's presentation of the mother is remarkable. After her colorization she is liberated, unwilling to return to the bland life as a sit-com housewife. She wants more out of life, things the former satisfaction of husband and family can no longer provide. Macy is one of the great character actors of our time. Here he is understanding by nature but represents those that are able to change but unsure just how to go about it. Witherspoon shows a great sense of comic timing. Her presentation of Jennifer is heart felt and shows great depth of understanding her character.
Gary Ross weaves a modern fairy tale here but with meaningful social commentary. He allows this film to explore such negative aspects of our society as prejudice with humor amd commitment. In one scene that pays homage to 'To Kill a Mockingbird' there is a courtroom adjourned to decide David's fate for bringing color to Pleasantville. The colorized people sit in the stands atop the courtroom, the black and white members of the community are at ground level. In all the pacing of this film flows with ease and grace.
Technically the movie is a wonder. The transfer to DVD is in the usual New Line manner, incredible. Not only does the movie change to more and more color but the sound reflects the changes as well. The flat front speaker sound heard during the black and white scenes gives way slowly to more and more surround sound. As color comes to Pleasantville the sound becomes more alive. There are many added features including an interesting commentary by the director, Gary Ross. This movie will make you run the gamut of emotions. You will laugh, cry and cheer as the people of Pleasantville give up their two dimensional existence for a full life.