This is the story about two kids, David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer(Reese Witherspoon), who are mysteriously zapped into a corny '50s television show called "Pleasantville." Once they get into the show, their '90s values catalyze a transformation of the community, whose characters begin to discover their emotional cores and in the process change from black-and-white to color.
The most annoying aspect of the film is how both David and Jennifer so easily accept their transportation into the show and how writer/director/producer/key grip Gary Ross doesn't define whether these two kids live in our world or some world where it's possible to be transported into television shows (a world I'd call "Unbelievaville"). Imagine a world where kids are stuck in some of those WB shows. The horror...
The dialectic going on in this movie is supposed to be between change and the status quo. This is made fairly clear as the characters discover their ability to love, screw, and -- in the case of David and Jennifer's fictional mother, Betty Parker (Joan Allen) -- masturbate. Those who "find themselves" soon gain a healthy color and begin offending the town's black-and-white residents, who start making rules to forbid various practices which they perceive to have led to the colorizations. In one of Ross' less subtle, "please hold still while I beat you over the head with my point" moves, signs begin appearing in store windows that read: "No Coloreds."
However, as any good Hegelian knows, there can be no dialectic between change and the status quo because change is the outcome of any dialectic. What Ross is trying to do here is say something about the human resistance to change without being political, yet the whole film is clearly a metaphor for the shift in attitudes from the 1950s to the 1960s. Ross is probably one of those guys who claims to have been instrumental in the March on Washington because he watched it on television. Between Ross and the Klan, it's really a toss-up at to who does more for civil rights. At least the Klan angers people into action. Ross lulls them into a false sense of righteousness.
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