- rated TEPID
I saw the trailer of this film and I thought "Wow! What a great idea!"
Now, having seen the film, I'm afraid that's still the best I can say
It's a great idea, and it works brilliantly for the first 30 minutes or
so, and then it has nowhere to go. It's a fine allegory in theory, but
not in practice.
That's a shame, because the production design is terrific (although it
does remind me of how brilliant The Truman Show was). And it has some
wonderful actors, including Joan Allen (so marvellous as icon moms of
previous eras in The Ice Storm and Nixon ), Willam H Macy and Tobey
Maguire (The Ice Storm , also). Tobey works hard to make an original
mark on this "high concept" movie, and he is engaging, and in a scene
with Joan Allen, very tender. There is also a nice performance by Reese
Witherspoon, whose work I've not caught before. Like Alicia
Silverstone, she does a nice line in irony.
But all in all, it doesn't work. The logic is all cock-eyed. A
black-and-white world that looks superficially like a paradise - the
good old days - is actually a straight old boring and sanitised place.
So far, so good. Now introduce sex (or perhaps passion, or emotion, or
something ) and colour starts busting out all over. This is A GOOD
THING. Well...it is until things get a bit hot-blooded., and suddenly
the Chamber of Commerce meeting looks like a Nuremberg Rally. The only
thing to do is to continue to encourage civil disobedience, and convert
the town to technicolour, then get out. Go back to today,where things
aren't quite as bad as they seem, right? Or stay in the past. Which is
no longer the boring place it was. Whatever. As long as you learn
something, right. Like Huckleberry Finn, or DH Lawrence or JD Salinger
or Turner or Monet or Van Gogh. All at the cutting edge of comtemporary
art and culture, right? Well, actually, no, not even in 1958, when the
Frankly, I'm still not sure what the director and writer had in mind
with Pleasantville. The director and witer is Gary Ross, who wrote Big
and Dave (both "high concept" movies, as it happens, and both modern
fables). But here I think he's lost his way. Think how satisfying The
Truman Show was, both in its internal and external logic. Then compare
To be honest, I was confused about the confusion in this film. I
couldn't quite put my finger on what was wrong with it. Then, after
writing the above, I clicked into one of my favourite websites, "Mr
Cranky", and this is what he had to say:
"The dialectic going on in this movie is supposed to
be between change and the status quo...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."
And there you have the problem, in a nutshell. Trust Mr Cranky to put
it into words.
On the other hand, how can you dislike a film which has Don Knotts
appear as a cosmic TV repairman?
The film ends with Fiona Apple (today) singing an old soppy John Lennon
song, Across the Universe (olden days). If that isn't emblematic of the
confusion in this film, I'm Barbara Billingsley.
© Michèle M Asprey 1999