Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gary Ross|
|Produced by||Bob Degus
|Written by||Gary Ross|
William H. Macy
J. T. Walsh
|Music by||Randy Newman|
|Editing by||William Goldenberg|
|Studio||Larger Than Life Productions|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Running time||124 minutes|
Pleasantville is a 1998 American fantasy comedy-drama film written, produced, and directed by Gary Ross. The film stars Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, J. T. Walsh, and Reese Witherspoon, with Don Knotts, Paul Walker, and Jane Kaczmarek in supporting roles. The film was released in the United States by New Line Cinema through Warner Bros. on October 23, 1998.
David (Maguire) and his sister Jennifer (Witherspoon) lead different high-school social lives. Jennifer is shallow and extroverted; David is introverted and spends most of his time watching television. One evening while their mother (Kaczmarek) is away, they fight over the TV. Jennifer wants a concert, but David wants to watch a marathon of Pleasantville, a black and white 1958 sitcom about the idyllic Parker family. During the fight, the remote control breaks, but the TV cannot be turned on manually.
A mysterious TV repairman (Knotts) shows up, quizzes David about Pleasantville, then gives him a strange remote control. The repairman leaves, and David and Jennifer resume fighting. However, they are transported into the Parkers' black and white Pleasantville living room. David tries to reason with the repairman (with whom he communicates through the Parkers' television), but he succeeds only in chasing him away. David and Jennifer must now pretend they are Bud and Mary Sue Parker, the son and daughter on the show.
David and Jennifer witness the wholesome nature of the town, such as a group of firemen rescuing a cat from a tree. David tells Jennifer they must stay in character and not disrupt the lives of the town's citizens, who do not notice any difference between Bud and Mary Sue, and David and Jennifer. To keep the show's plot, Jennifer dates a boy from high school but has sex with him, a concept unknown to him and everyone else in town.
Slowly, Pleasantville begins changing from black and white to color, including flowers and the faces of people who have experienced bursts of emotion. David becomes friends with Mr. Johnson (Daniels), owner of the cheeseburger joint/soda fountain, and introduces him to colorful modern art via a book from the library, sparking in him an interest in painting. Johnson and Betty Parker (Allen) fall in love, causing her to leave home, throwing George Parker (Macy), Bud and Mary Sue's father, into confusion. The only people who remain unchanged are the town fathers, led by the mayor, Big Bob (Walsh), who sees the changes eating at the values of Pleasantville. They resolve to do something about their increasingly independent wives and rebellious children.
As the townsfolk become more colorful, a ban on "colored" people is initiated in public venues. Eventually, a riot is touched off by a nude painting of Betty (painted by Johnson) on the window of Mr. Johnson's soda fountain. The soda fountain is destroyed, books are burned, and people who are "colored" are harassed in the street. As a reaction, the town fathers announce rules preventing people from visiting the library, playing loud music, or using paint other than black, white, or gray. In protest, David and Mr. Johnson paint a colorful mural on a brick wall, depicting their world, but they are arrested. Brought to trial in front of the town, David and Mr. Johnson defend their actions, arousing enough anger and indignation in Big Bob that the mayor becomes colored as well.
Having seen Pleasantville change irrevocably, Jennifer stays to finish her education, but David uses the remote control to return to the real world.
- Tobey Maguire as David
- Reese Witherspoon as Jennifer
- Joan Allen as Betty Parker
- Jeff Daniels as Bill Johnson
- William H. Macy as George Parker
- J. T. Walsh as Big Bob
- Marley Shelton as Margaret Henderson
- Giuseppe Andrews as Howard
- Jenny Lewis and Marissa Ribisi as Christin and Kimmy
- Jane Kaczmarek as David and Jennifer's mother
- Don Knotts as a TV repairman
- Kevin Connors and Natalie Ramsey as Bud and Mary Sue Parker
- David Tom as Whitey
- Paul Walker as Skip Martin
- Dawn Cody, Maggie Lawson, and Andrea Taylor as Betty Jean, Lisa Anne, and Peggy Jane
This was the first time the majority of a new feature film was scanned, processed, and recorded digitally. The black-and-white meets color world portrayed in the movie was filmed entirely in color and selectively desaturated and contrast adjusted digitally. The work was done in Los Angeles by Cinesite utilizing a Spirit DataCine for scanning at 2K resolution
Director Gary Ross stated, "This movie is about the fact that personal repression gives rise to larger political oppression...That when we're afraid of certain things in ourselves or we're afraid of change, we project those fears on to other things, and a lot of very ugly social situations can develop".
Robert Beuka says in his book SuburbiaNation, "Pleasantville is a morality tale concerning the values of contemporary suburban America by holding that social landscape up against both the Utopian and the dystopian visions of suburbia that emerged in the 1950s".
Robert McDaniel of Film and History described the town as the perfect place , "It never rains, the highs and lows rest at 72 degrees, the fire department exists only to rescue treed cats, and the basketball team never misses the hoop." However, McDaniel says, "Pleasantville is a false hope. David's journey tells him only that there is no 'right' life, no model for how things are 'supposed to be.'"
Warren Epstein of The Gazette wrote, "This use of color as a metaphor in black-and-white films certainly has a rich tradition, from the over-the-rainbow land in The Wizard of Oz to the girl in the red dress who made the Holocaust real for Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List. In Pleasantville, color represents the transformation from repression to enlightenment. People - and their surroundings - change from black-and-white to color when they connect with the essence of who they really are."
Box office 
Pleasantville earned $8.9 million over its opening weekend.
Critical reception 
Janet Maslin wrote that its "ingenious fantasy" has "seriously belabored its once-gentle metaphor and light comic spirit." Peter M. Nichols, judging the film for its child-viewing worthiness, jokingly wrote in The New York Times that the town of Pleasantville "makes Father Knows Best look like Dallas".
Entertainment Weekly wrote a mixed review: "Pleasantville is ultramodern and beautiful. But technical elegance and fine performances mask the shallowness of a story as simpleminded as the '50s TV to which it condescends; certainly it's got none of the depth, poignance, and brilliance of The Truman Show, the recent TV-is-stifling drama that immediately comes to mind."
Awards and nominations 
The film won the following accolades:
- Saturn Awards (1998)
- Best Performance by a Younger Actor/Actress—Tobey Maguire
- Best Supporting Actress—Joan Allen
- Boston Society of Film Critics Award (1998)
- Best Supporting Actor—William H. Macy
- Best Supporting Actress—Joan Allen
The film was nominated for the following achievements:
- Academy Awards (1998)
- Best Art Direction/Set Decoration —Jeannine Claudia Oppewall and Jay Hart
- Best Costume Design—Judianna Makovsky
- Best Music, Original Dramatic Score—Randy Newman
The soundtrack features music from the 1950s and 1960s such as "Be-Bop-A-Lula" by Gene Vincent, "Take Five" by The Dave Brubeck Quartet, and "At Last" by Etta James. The main score was composed by Randy Newman; he received an Oscar nomination in the original music category. The soundtrack also includes two songs by Fiona Apple.
- Bob Fisher (November 1998). "Black & white in color". American Cinematographer.
- "Review for Pleasantville (1998)". Rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
- Beuka, Robert A. SuburbiaNation: Reading Suburban Landscape in Twentieth-Century American Fiction and Film. 1st ed. New York : Palgrave Macmillian, 2004. 14-15.
- McDaniel, Robb. "Pleasantville (Ross 1998)." "Review of Pleasantville." Films and History. May–June 2002: 85-86.
- Epstein, Warren. "True Colors - A Small Town Blossoms when '50s and '90s collide in Pleasantville". The Gazette (Colorado Springs). Retrieved April 11, 2013.
- Wolk, Josh (October 26, 1998). ""Pleasantville" tops the box office, but it's the only new wide release that scored". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 21, 2013.
- "Pleasantville (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
- Ebert, Roger (October 1, 1998). "Pleasantville (PG-13)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
- Maslin, Janet (March 19, 1999). "New Video Releases". The New York Times.
- Nichols, Peter M. (November 6, 1998). "Taking the Children; Bobby-Soxers and Dinos Brought Back to Life". The New York Times.
- "Pleasantville (1998)". Entertainment Weekly. October 23, 1998. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
- AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Pleasantville|
- Pleasantville at the Internet Movie Database
- Pleasantville at AllRovi
- Pleasantville at Rotten Tomatoes
- Pleasantville at Box Office Mojo