People, people.... I think we all know what's going on here. Up until now everything around here has been, well, pleasant. Recently certain things have become unpleasant. It seems to me that the first thing we have to do is to separate out the things that are pleasant from the things that are unpleasant.
Jennifer/Mary Sue: No. David, nobody's happy in a poodle skirt and a sweater set. [pause] You really like this don't you? No, its not like you think it's just like funny or dorky or anything … you like — really like it.
David/Bud: [to Jennifer/Mary Sue] I thought the books were blank?
Will: They were.
Jennifer/Mary Sue: Okay, this was NOT my fault. When they asked me what it was about I didn't remember because I read it like back in tenth grade. When I told them what I did remember, thats when the pages filled in.
David/Bud: The pages filled in?
Jennifer/Mary Sue: But like only up to the part with the raft, because that's as far as I read.
Tommy: Do you know how it ends?
David/Bud: Yeah… I do.
Margaret: So how does it end?
David/Bud: Well, um — okay, let's see…. they were running away — Huck and — and the slave.... they … they were going up the river, trying to get free…. and — in trying to get free … they see that they're sort of free already….[The pages fill in by themselves, completing the book] Oh my God.
Big Bob: [in the bowling alley] What happened? Are you alright? What is it?
George: I came home like I always do. And I came in the front door. And I took off my coat. And I put down my briefcase and I said "Honey. I'm home."
[The men all nod in recognition.]
George: ...Only no one was there. So I went into the kitchen and I yelled it again. "Honey — I'm home." But there was no one there either. No wife. No lights. No dinner.
[The men all gasp]
George: So I went to the oven you know — because I thought maybe she had made me one of those "TV dinners..." But she hadn't. She was gone. And I looked and looked and looked — but she was gone.
Big Bob: It's gonna be fine George. You're with 'us' now.
Gus: What are we gonna do Bob?
Big Bob: Well — we'll be safe for now — thank goodness we're in a bowling alley — but if George here doesn't get his dinner, any one of us could be next. It could be you Gus, or you Roy, or even you Ralph.... That's real rain out there, gentlemen. This isn't some little "virus" that's going to "clear up on its own." There's something happening to our town and I think we can all see where it comes from. My friends, this isn't about George's dinner or Roy's shirt. It's a question of values. It's a question of whether we're gonna hold onto the values that have made this place great. So the time has come to make a decision. Are we in this alone, or are we in it together?
Betty[who has now become "colored"]: I got caught in the storm. You were gone all night too.
George: Let's just forget about it, we'll just go to the meeting.
Betty: No. I told you, George. I am not going to that meeting.
George: Sure you are.
Betty: No, I'm NOT. — Look at me, George. Look at my face. That meetings not for me.
Big Bob: This is not the answer, people. No matter how upset we may get, or how frustrated we may be, we're not gonna solve our problems out in the street. It's just the wrong way to do it. We have to have a "Code of Conduct" we can all agree to live by. Now, I asked George and Burt here to sketch out some ideas — and I think they've done a terrific job. If we all agree on these then we can take a vote and I think we'll start to move in the right direction. "ONE: All public disruption and acts of vandalism are to cease immediately. TWO: All citizens of Pleasantville are to treat one another in a courteous and pleasant manner...
[The kids are hiding in the ruined malt shop]
Lisa Anne: "Courteous and Pleasant manner." That doesn't sound too bad.
David/Bud[reading the new Code of Conduct]: "THREE: The area commonly known as Lover's Lane as well as the Pleasantville Public Library shall be closed until further notice. FOUR: The only permissible recorded music shall be the following: Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, Jack Jones, the marches of John Phillips Sousa or The Star Spangled Banner. In no event shall any music be tolerated that is not of a temperate or "pleasant" nature."
Kids: Oh my gosh.... No....
David/Bud: "FIVE: There shall be no public sale of umbrellas or preparation for inclement weather of any kind. SIX: No bedframe or mattress may be sold measuring more than 38 inches wide. SEVEN: The only permissible paint colors shall be BLACK, WHITE or GRAY, despite the recent availability of certain alternatives. EIGHT: All elementary and high school curriculums shall teach the "non-changist" view of history — emphasizing "continuity" over "alteration." Wow.
George: You know, your mom went out.
David/Bud: Went out?
George: Yeah. She went out for a little while.
George: Three days ago.
George: What happened? One minute everything's fine — the next... What went wrong?
David/Bud: Nothing went wrong. People change.
George: People change?
David/Bud: Yeah. People change.
George: Can they change back?
David/Bud: I don't know — I think that's harder.
David/Bud: I've got something to say!
Big Bob: Very well.
David/Bud: You don't have a right to do this. I mean, I know you want it to stay pleasant around here, but — there are so many things … that are so much better. Like silly, or sexy, or dangerous … or brief. And every one of those things is in you all the time, if you just have the guts to look for them.
Big Bob: That's enough.
David/Bud: I thought I was allowed to defend myself.
David/Bud: I'm not lying. You see those faces up there? They're no different than you are, they just happen to see something inside themselves…
Big Bob: [bangs gavel] I said that's enough.
David/Bud: Here, I'll show you. Dad?
George: Yeah, Bud?
David/Bud: It's okay Dad, just listen a sec. I know you miss her, I mean, you told me you did. But maybe it's not just the cooking, or the cleaning, that you miss. Maybe it's something else. Maybe you can't even describe it. Maybe you only know it when it's gone. Maybe it's like there's a whole piece of you that's missing too. Look at her, Dad. Doesn't she look pretty like that? Doesn't she look … just as beautiful as the first time you met her? Do you really want her back the way she was? Doesn't she look just wonderful?[he nods]Now don't you wish you could tell her that?[he nods, and suddenly is colored]
Big Bob: Because I'm not gonna let you turn this courtroom into a circus!
David/Bud: Well, I don't think it's a circus, and I don't think they do, either. [David turns to look at the crowd, where many of the black-and-white people are changing into color. There are gasps and murmurs. Jennifer grins]
Big Bob: [bangs the gavel] This behavior must stop at once!
David/Bud: But see? That's just the point! It can't stop at once, because it's in you, and you can't stop something that's inside you.
Big Bob: It is not inside me!
David's Mom: When your father was here, I used to think, "This was it." This is the way it was always going to be. I had the right house. I had the right car. I had the right life.
David: There is no right house. There is no right car.
Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup, They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe. Pools of sorrow waves of joy are drifting through my open mind, Possessing and caressing me. Jai Guru Deva Om. Nothing's gonna change my world.
Sure times are tough in the 90′s, but it ain’t all bad and the “good old days” weren’t always all that good. This is an exquisite, timely film. It’s nice to know that occasionally, even Hollywood does something right. ~ Merle Bertrand
Pleasantville, which is one of the year's best and most original films, sneaks up on us. It begins by kidding those old black-and-white sitcoms like Father Knows Best, it continues by pretending to be a sitcom itself, and it ends as a social commentary of surprising power. ~ Roger Ebert
Pleasantville is a morality tale concerning the values of contemporary suburban America by holding that social landscape up against both the Utopian and the dystopian visions of suburbia that emerged in the 1950s.
Robert Beuka, in SuburbiaNation : Reading Suburban Landscape in Twentieth-Century American Fiction and Film (2004), p. 14
Every now and then, a movie comes along that does the motion picture industry proud. … What seems at first to be a gently satiricnostalgia piece gradually turns serious when the twins introduce spontaneity and a dose of 90′s reality to Pleasantville’s pre-programmed denizens. This reality virus, manifesting as color, gradually spreads through the town. While this awakening adds color, knowledge and diversity to their previously rote existence, the unprepared citizens must also come to grips with such decidedly unpleasant scourges as intolerance, violence and racism. When that once-charming black and white 1950′s Main Street view transforms into B&W newsreel-like footage of a book burning, hatred-spewing mob chanting “No Coloreds,” the film certainly tempers our nostalgia – and cleverly fires its warning shots right across our bow. Sure times are tough in the 90′s, but it ain’t all bad and the “good old days” weren’t always all that good. This is an exquisite, timely film. It’s nice to know that occasionally, even Hollywood does something right.
The wonder or this film, its grand feat, is to recast the nostalgic and imperturbably pleasant black-and-white landscape of Pleasantville as in need of a strong dose of our violent, endangered, live-and-in-color, three-dimensional world. The film identifies as repressive (and ultimately dangerous) the "false front" of Pleasantville as it contrasts with the emotional untidiness of "real life." By the end, instead of continuing to hope his actual family becomes like the one on Pleasantville, the brother models the no longer idealized Pleasantville on "real life."
Virginia Blum, in Flesh Wounds : The Culture of Cosmetic Surgery (2003), p. 244
Pleasantville is one of the year's delights. It flies off the screen with a freshness and wonder that tickle you with the though that film itself is reborn, not just the characters in Gary Ross's allegorical fairy tale. The device Ross uses as springboard on behalf of passion and intensity — and the antinostalgic belief that you can't go back, only forward, is simply brilliant and brilliantly simple.
In the twilight of the 20th century, here is a comedy to reassure us that there is hope — that the world we see around us represents progress, not decay.Pleasantville, which is one of the year's best and most original films, sneaks up on us. It begins by kidding those old black-and-white sitcoms like Father Knows Best, it continues by pretending to be a sitcom itself, and it ends as a social commentary of surprising power.
The film observes that sometimes pleasant people are pleasant simply because they have never, ever been challenged. That it's scary and dangerous to learn new ways. The movie is like the defeat of the body snatchers: The people in color are like former pod people now freed to move on into the future. We observe that nothing creates fascists like the threat of freedom. Pleasantville is the kind of parable that encourages us to re-evaluate the good old days and take a fresh look at the new world we so easily dismiss as decadent. Yes, we have more problems. But also more solutions, more opportunities and more freedom. I grew up in the '50s. It was a lot more like the world of Pleasantville than you might imagine. Yes, my house had a picket fence, and dinner was always on the table at a quarter to six, but things were wrong that I didn't even know the words for.
Ambitious, ingenious and visually breathtaking, Pleasantville is a rarity in contemporary filmmaking; a fully-realized vision that succeeds on multiple levels. Writer and director Gary Ross has crafted a wondrous experience that satisfies as a comedy, a fantasy, a drama and a parable. Movies don't get much better than this.
Hollywood satire is not usually this enjoyable: Both savage and silly, Pleasantville is an absolute blast.
Bruce Kirkland, in Jam! Movies (13 April 2004)
It never rains, the highs and lows rest at 72 degrees, the fire department exists only to rescue treed cats, and the basketball team never misses the hoop. … Pleasantville is a false hope. David's journey tells him only that there is no "right" life, no model for how things are "supposed to be."
Robert McDaniel, in a review of Pleasantville in Films and History (May–June 2002), p. 85
Parents need to know that Pleasantville raises many ideas about modern troubled times versus old-time simplicity, as well as freedom, responsibility and tolerance. The movie contains many sexual situations, as the naïve TV characters learn about sex for the first time, but the movie handles them gracefully. … High schoolers may appreciate the way that the twins, at first retreating in different ways from the problems of the modern world, find that the rewards of the examined life make it ultimately worthwhile. Parents and teens alike will find many things to think and talk about after watching Pleasantville, including the movie's parallels to Nazi Germany (book burning) and American Jim Crow laws ("No colored" signs), and the challenges of independent thinking. Also intriguing is the path of Jennifer's character. At first, she thinks that it is sex that turns the black and white characters into color. But when she stays "pasty," she realizes that the colors reveal something more subtle and meaningful — the willingness to challenge the accepted and opening oneself up to honestreflection about one's own feelings and longings.
This movie is about the fact that personal repression gives rise to larger political oppression...That when we're afraid of certain things in ourselves or we're afraid of change, we project those fears on to other things, and a lot of very ugly social situations can develop.