February 28, 1999

Other than the "pleasant" fact that I learned Don Knotts is still alive and acting, and that J.T. Walsh plays a pivotal role despite having been dead for a year or so, I have a lot of bad things to say about this movie. Get ready to rummmmmmble...

Don Knotts plays some kind of mystic T.V. repairman (FYI: roughly 15% of T.V. repairmen have mild reality-altering powers) who causes two annoying siblings to be sent into a 50's sitcom called "Pleasantville" (they fill the roles of sitcom children Mary Sue and Bud). I could be remembering incorrectly, but I think Knotts' character's name is Mr. A. Plot Device.

Long story short, they turn the sitcom's black and white world into color, introduce sex and art, and make the inhabitants of Pleasantville a bit more interesting.

The world gradually goes to color, not all at once. Many times there are only a few color objects in a black and white scene (later in the film sometimes this is reversed, with a color scene containing only a few black and white objects). At first I found the gradual introduction of color to be charming, but by the end of the film the use of color was tedious and overdone.

As the film progresses there is no consistency with the use of black and white and color. One scene a street is littered with colorful objects, while the next time we see the street it has no color whatsoever. I didn't see it really serve any particular purpose to be inconsistent in this manner; the inconsistency didn't enhance the story or suggest anything as far as I could see. It just appeared to me to be sloppy and arbitrary (On a side note, for a good film which uses color and black and white arbitrarily, see Lindsay Anderson's If. See how good Malcolm McDowell was before he started filling Ricardo Montalban's shoes!).

The metaphor of color was used very sloppily throughout the picture. Sometimes sex turned a character to color. Mary Sue turns to color because she finally reads a book. Bud gets his color by punching someone in the face. Good going, Bud!

The introduction of color into the previously "perfect" world causes conflict, and, supposedly, drama. Sometimes the resisters of color are seen as forces of censorship. Other times, and this is very, very tacky, the resisters of color are portrayed as being racist, with the "colored" people filling in as the victims of racism. A window in a store says "NO COLOREDS," and in a courtroom scene near the end of the film, the B&W people sit at ground level while the "colored" people are relegated to the balcony, evoking images of the segregationist South.

There's something fishy about a film that utilizes metaphors of racial intolerance when it never allows blacks (or any race besides Caucasian for that matter) into this insular world. Before the town begins to change, we learn in a Geography class that nothing exists outside of "Main Street and Elm Street." However, at the end of the movie, after the town is completely color, a world does exist outside Pleasantvile. Mary Sue boards a bus to another town, Springfield. I thought it would be amusing to see the reactions of all the newly-open-minded townspeople if another bus pulled up as she was boarding, and a large group of black people stepped out.

One more thing I found simultaneously appalling and hilarious involved Mary Sue. Instead of returning to the real world with Bud, she decides to stay in the world of Pleasantville so she can attend college. During the course of the film she has realized she is intelligent, but apparently not enough for college back on PLANET EARTH.

Bud returns from Pleasantville at the end and has a conversation with his real world mother. I am very curious as to what answer he will give to his mom (or the authorities) concerning the whereabouts of his missing sister. Good luck!

See you at the movies. Save me the unstained seat.