18 05 2010

Pleasantville's storyline, cinematography, themes comes together brilliantly

Pleasantville (1998) came out when I was still in High School.  It was written, directed, and produced by Gary Ross and starred Tobey Maguire, Reese Weatherspoon, and William H. Macy.

The film is possibly my favorite movie from the 90’s.  The sharp themes here critique contemporary culture and history in the mainstream and portrays the ridiculous behavior that can arise from our own fears.

I’m no Tobey Maguire or Reese Weatherspoon but Gary Ross did a fabulous job with weaving the storyline and getting the most out of his actors.

Old vs New

The constant theme that runs through this movie is change- the old, the familiar-that which we are comfortable with is shown in black and white while change and adjustment is shown in color.

Old ideas and traditions sometimes has to be broken – Women depicted in the American past were shown as just housewives responsible for  cooking and greeting guests, new ideas were considered dangerous, and, in the extreme case, books were burned or laws were created to stop the spread of new ideas.  In history, art was used as a weapon to challenge the status quo.


The reference in the courtroom, showed the colors sitting on top which mimics the treatment of African Americans in America during the jim crow days.  The rationale behind the laws which mandates the segregation is based on fear of difference and fear of the unknown.  In American society, this fear was manipulated by the landowners to portray African Americans as slaves and hypersexualized beasts you would want your daughters to be near.  However, landowners frequently raped their slaves or servants.

The Bible

Perhaps one of my favorite scene is when Tobey Maguire’s character receives an apple from his date while on a picnic near the lake.  This is the exact reference to the Garden of Eden except no one is corrupting anyone although the film constantly refers to the old thinking that introducing new concepts and ideas is a form of corruption, a disease that must be dealt with.  Contemporary society, we can still see the manifestation of this craze, that the notion of evolution is beyond belief while the notion of god is a constant reality not to be challenged.

I can’t stand bad movies-a waste of 2 hours of my life.  Pleasantville on the otherhand, is a movie I recommend to those who never seen it.




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