Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon play David and Jennifer, two all-American kids growing up in todays world. Jennifer is the "cool" kid, while David is, well, not. While Jennifer is into trying to get guys, and smoking and all that, David is into watching tv, especially his favorite tv show, Pleasantville. Tonight David and Jennifer have slightly different plans. David is planning on watching a 24 hour marathon of Pleasantville, while Jennifer is planning on watching a concert on MTV with this guy she's invited over. During their squabble over the all-mighty remote, it breaks, and a mysterious stranger is at the door (Don Knotts). He hands them a new remote that changes their lives forever. Somehow David and Jennifer get zapped into the tv, and are now part of Pleasantville.
Pleasantville (the tv show) is an old black and white wholesome show where the father comes home from work everyday at 5, his wife has prepared dinner for them, and the two kids rush over to see daddy. The temperature never goes above or below 72 degrees, and life is well, pleasant. David and Jennifer (who are now Bud and Mary Sue) have to deal with this new life, while trying to figure a way out. Soon the black and white world of Pleasantville is turning colorized, and people aren't sure what to do. Is this change a good thing, or will it ruin the lives of the people of Pleasantville?
There are a few obvious messages screenwriter/director Gary Ross is trying to show. So I'll just tell you what I got out of it. Basically I thought he was trying to say that people need to express themselves. Your world will remain in black and white unless you're willing to open your eyes to new experiences. Once you start seeing what the world around you has to offer, your once black and white world can open up into a rainbow of colors. Of course Ross could have been trying to say that being an individual is important rather than always following what the group says. Or he could have been saying, "can't we all just get along?" Whatever his real message was, he certainly hits his point, over and over and over again. I though I was pretty smart picking up on his message (something I usually don't see) early on in the film. Then for the last 30-45 minutes, he just kept slamming his message into you again and again. And while I didn't feel that he needed to, it didn't really take away from the movie.
The black and white vs. color idea was something different. The special effects were quite cool in fact. Seeing how the world of Pleasantville slowing transformed, flower by flower, face by face, into color was very interesting. Although for a while it seemed the only way a person could turn into color was by having sex (an idea later refuted by Mary Sue). The acting was wonderful, and it was all held together by Tobey Maguire. His character (David/Bud) had a powerful yet boyish innocence about him. He knew the tv show so well he knew what all the people were supposed to be doing, yet after trying desperately to keep them in line, he realized that maybe change was a good thing. The one character that truly showed how change can affect you was the mom Betty Parker (Joan Allen). Her performance showed how change can be exciting and at the same time frightening. It was funny to see how all the kids changed into color first, while all the older white males were the last to go. It tells me that the kids of today are more willing to go out there and make changes, and that we are the voice of a new world. But those older white guys will come along, once they realize that maybe kids have something important to say.
So overall, I really enjoyed Pleasantville. It was well made, and well acted. And while it did beat you over the head with its many messages, the story was still done in such a way that I didn't really mind it. It's a movie that I'll probably see again.