Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Pleasentville (1998)

(Fig 1)

'Pleasentville', released in 1998 (Fig 1), is a fantasy comedy-drama starring Toby McGuire and Reese Witherspoon. The basic premise of the film sees two siblings being sucked into a television show called 'Pleasentville', which takes place in the 1950s, after a fight over the remote control. They soon find themselves living in a naive, innocent, but somewhat 'pleasent' town. The story through the whole film has a dark, sublte plot which turns this fantasical, comedic plot into a thought-provoking tale with a unique visual style

"It may or may not be a coincidence that “Pleasantville” and “The Truman Show” were made in the same year, but they are good companion pieces, sharing thematic similarities as well as significant visual and other differences." (Emanual Levy, no date)

Emanual states that The Truman Show is similar to this film in certain ways and he would be right. one similarity would be that both films have a mildly campy stype to them which, in Pleasentville, is only
enhanced by the look and feel that we know of the 1950s 'Atomic Family' habitat, which is primarily what this film portrays.

(Fig 2)
Both Reese and Toby are constantly at ends with one-another all the while having to try to fit in with the varying cast of cheesy, pleasent characters that inhabit the town while living with their 'perfect' parents played by Joan Allen and William H Macy (Fig 2). Toby is a fanatic of the Pleasentville show and knows all of the episodes off by heart and thus, he knows how to play out his part in the show turned real life. Reese, however, is quite the opposite and cannot contain her dismay for being trapped inside of a goofy, geeky television series.

Eventually, both teens cause disturbances within the fixed, bland and monochome world of Pleasentville, sending quakes of anxiety or excitement through the residents of the town. Bright colours begin to expose themselves through the greyscale shell of the show, causing many townspeople to embrace the excitement and their newfound imagination and creativity while causing dread, disgust and fear to others. (Fig 3)

(Fig 3)

The film is a rare one in the Hollywood industry as it uses colour and new technologies in filmmaking to draw the filmviewer into the story and evoke emotion and empathy with its thought-provoking story as review Paul Clinton states in his review of Pleasentville:

"The film was shot in color then the hues were drained out and replaced bit by bit. First a rose, then a tongue or a character's eyes. The movie was also lit for both black and white and color, which is nearly impossible. In all, more than 1,700 computer-generated visual effects were used." (Paul Clinton, 1998)

 As more and more colour springs up in the world, you frequently and actively seek out more colour within each scene from a once dull, dreary, color scheme. However, there is also plenty to see while watching the reactions of the character to the tidbits of color. (Fig 4)

(Fig 4)

Unfortunately the rapidly spreading color doesn't evoke positive emotions in everyone in Pleasentville. The hysterical fear eventually turns into prejudice towards colours or people of 'colour'. This borderlines into the issue of racially-fueled segragation and the town of Pleasentville doesn't appear to be very pleasent as it once was. Standing up for what they believe, the 'coloured' townsfolk make their voices heard, turning Pleasentville into a lively, dynamic, even more pleasent place.


Clinton, Paul (1998) (Accessed 17/10/12)

Levy, Emanuel (no date) (Accessed 17/10/12)


Fig 1 (no date) (Accessed 17/10/12)

Fig 2 (not date) (Accessed 17/10/12)

Fig 3 (no date) (Accessed 17/10/12)

Fig 4 (no date) (Accessed 17/10/12)

1 comment:

  1. Evening Tom - I enjoyed this review - but I HATE the font on your blog; it makes my eyes work really hard - any chance of electing for a nice bit of arial or helvetica? Also - more generally - I suggest you look again at your blog template - it's simply not as sophisticated as a lot of your work on here...