Friday, April 13, 2012

Film Fest - Pleasantville

What a jewel this film is!

I liked Pleasantville the first time I saw it.  Liked it enough to buy it on DVD and to watch it ever since.  This fantasy about a 1990s teenage boy and his sister who get magically pulled into the vintage '50s black & white television show called Pleasantville - and then create unintended havoc - gets better with every viewing.

For one thing, it stars the then young and little known Tobie Maguire and Reese Withspoon.  Every other role is filled with wonderful actors like Joan Allen, who plays the luminous, heart-breaking pearl-clad Mother, Jeff Daniels, William H. Macy, and even old favorites like Don Knotts, who once worked in Mayberry, spiritual sister-city to Pleasantville.

For another, this film has great affection for the old, innocent TV sitcoms whose unreality it simultaneously spoofs.  (There's a great sight-gag in a toilet stall.)  It's witty.  But it has deeper, philosophical currents under the surface sparkle of wit and humor: musings on reality and fantasy, conformity and freedom, innocence and experience... on the importance of passion.

I have to love a film that can make you laugh at a crack about bowling alleys one minute and in the next, feel genuinely uncomfortable about creeping totalitarianism.  Pleasantville gets unpleasantly more topical every day.

Public domain images messed with.

The film may start out in nostalgia - but it doesn't stay there.  Never has the phrase, "Honey, I'm home!" sounded so... forlorn.  This is a clever "idea" film that's beautifully realized (gorgeous photography), but it is its warmth and charm you most remember.

Pleasantville is a gem.

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