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Search our database of more than 4,500 film reviews. We have been discovering spiritual meanings in movies for nearly four decades.

Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Pleasantville
Directed by Gary Ross
New Line 11/98 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG-13 - language, thematic elements emphasizing sexuality

Some Americans still want to return to the myth of the 1950s when wives stayed at home to serve their husbands dinner every night, when holding hands on lover's lane was the height of sexual adventure, and when people kept with their own kind in insulated communities. Others know that not even legislated morality can turn back the clock.

In this innovative and ethically provocative movie, two 1990s adolescents, the reclusive David (Tobey Maguire) and his sexy sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) are magically transported to the alternate world of Pleasantville, a 1950s TV sitcom. Their parents are George (William H. Macy) and Betty (Joan Allen). In this bland white picket-fenced town, nothing ever changes, and everything is in black-and-white. People stiffle their emotions and sexual urges; there is no rain or fire; and the basketball team never loses.

Jennifer, who is now Mary Sue, stirs things up by sexually seducing the high school basketball star. David, who is now Bud, introduces Mr. Johnson (Jeff Daniels), the soda shop owner, to modern art. Soon their mother and other members of the community come alive by expressing their inner spirit. The telling sign is a literal change to color from black-and-white. The catalyst could be sex, literature, art, or the expression of a caring and loving nature.

Of course, the mayor (the late J. T. Walsh) and other defenders of the moral order come up with a strict code of conduct designed to stem the tide of freedom sweeping the community, and their supporters launch a fierce and violent backlash. But it is too late. More and more people accept change and remain open to even more of it.

As he did with Big and Dave, writer and director Gary Ross uses comedy to deal with the value conflicts which continue to divide Americans. Here he sides with free spirits and the spiritual practice of transformation. Don't trust or join any group, organization, or community that is frightened of change or that wants a monochrome world. Follow your bliss. Express your deepest and truest emotions. And never fail to celebrate the many-colored splendors of your true spirit!

 

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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Film Awards
The Most Spiritually Literate Films of:
 
Tobey Maguire as David and Reese Witherspoon as Jennifer Joan Allen as Betty and Tobey Maguire as David
S&P Film Awards:
One of the
Most Spiritually Literate
Films of 1998

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