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Pleasantville (1998)
Writer and director: Gary Ross

review by Debbie Moon

Teenager David is obsessed with a 1950s' TV show, 'Pleasantville', featuring a happy family living in an idyllic community. Given his erratic home life, his desire to escape to a world of fantasy is understandable. However, when he and his worldly sister are sucked into the show and find themselves living the lives of the two teenaged leads, they realise how much frustration, sexual repression and bitterness lies behind the facade. Their more liberated attitudes begin a quiet, often comical revolution - but not everyone wants things to change...
   Writer/director Gary Ross' fable is one of the most original studies of family life on film, casting a critical eye over both the emotional disconnection of contemporary life and the darker side of an idealised past. In a brilliant piece of conceptual imagery, the world of Pleasantville is shown entirely in black and white, until one by one, characters and places are touched by the teens' liberating ideas - and explode into colour.
   Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon deliver superb performances as the two teens with contrasting lifestyles masking the same needs, who blossom in very different ways along with the society they liberate. Their screen parents (William H. Macy and Joan Allen), head up a tremendous supporting cast, and the film teems with comedy, hope, and often-barbed social comment. A warm-hearted movie that doesn't pull its punches, this is a real cinematic treat.
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