The Pleasures Of 'Pleasantville'

In Gary Ross' daring modern fairy tale "Pleasantville," an entire fictional town is granted a chance to experience the comedies and dangers of real life.

In this fantasy, two late-20th-century teens accidentally bring living color to a mysterious suburb trapped in a black-and-white 50's utopia - and set off a revolution.

For the first time, Pleasantville's citizens experience a world of sensuous delights and never view life in black-and-white again. Film critic Gene Siskel tells CBS "This Morning" what he thought of the movie.

It's still October, but I know my headline for my end-of-the-year article for movie year 1998: That this year was a year full of excellent films with an original visual look. I'm thinking of What Dreams May Come, Antz,, and now Pleasantville.

In the truly clever and inventive Pleasantville, a brother and sister from the colorful '90s are sucked into their TV set and into episodes of a corny '50s black-and-white sitcom called Pleasantville - set in the fictional town of Pleasantville, where they replace teen-agers in the show.

They are constantly in a state of amazement and bemusement at the uptight black-and-white world around them. In one scene, Tobey Maguire warns sister Reese Witherspoon that they must stick to the show's story lines.

Basically, their situation is this: Imagine one day finding yourself living in an episode of Father Knows Best, but mother makes a high-fat breakfast. Joan Allen and William H. Macy, two terrific actors, are the TV parents.

Pleasantville allows us to look back to the confident, so-called "fabulous '50s" and consider those values afresh. Writer/director Gary Ross has also made a thoughtful picture, having his characters turn color any time they become passionate about anything, from sexual excitement to anger, which brings about a new prejudice reminiscent of the racism that flourished in the '50s.

Another sophisticated point in this surprisingly thoughtful movie is made involving Jeff Daniels, who owns the local malt shop. All these changes caused by the arrival of the kids awaken his passions for art and beauty, which are portrayed here as the necessary elements of a complete life.

Ross' previous writing credits include the movie Bigwith Tom Hanks and Dave with Kevin Kline. All these pictures are about innocence confronting the adult world and reflecting back to us what the adult world's values.

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