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  • Writer's pictureEugene

Pleasantville (1998)

Projectionist's rating: 6/10

Despite the deeply sad news this week of the Queen’s death, after consultation, we continued our showing of Pleasantville. It felt appropriate, as we had seen so much television footage of the 1950s, when Her Majesty was crowned.

The film was about change and people’s reactions to it. For our discussion leader this film was more relevant now than its appearance in 1998, with its riots and book-burning scenes. It seemed easy for a ‘them and us’ and ‘colored/non-colored’ hateful ideology to be created in Pleasantville when change was set in motion.

The interesting comment was made that if the film was re-made, it would have to include black people, as Pleasantville was all white. This was a very good point as an opportunity was lost to explore stereotypical roles for black actors in the 1950s.

The transition from people represented in black and white to colour represented turning from a repressed world to enlightenment and was beautifully done. “The effects were phenomenal” said one of our discussion group.

At the end of the film, we saw progress, as coloured televisions showed glimpses of other countries and Jennifer (Reece Witherspoon) is able to get a bus beyond Pleasantville to go to college.

We had some discussion about the TV repairman played by Don Knotts and his role in The Andy Griffiths show, a 1960s sitcom. For some of us, there were flaws in the film, with it going on too long and having confusing elements at the end. What did happen to Betty, the mother? She appeared to be with both men. It wasn’t clear and she had been a character who had stopped defining herself through men.

It also was odd that the plot meant that Jennifer suddenly disappeared from home, as she chose to study in the 1950s. The last scene involved her heartbroken mother, crying her heart out because of a broken relationship and presumably yet to be told her daughter would not come back!

We went home with the happy memory of Gene Kelly dancing his heart out, which was one of our 1950s shorts.


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