time-travel comedy Pleasantville (1998), reminiscent of
The Truman Show
and Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo,
David is an average depressed teenager who lives in an average depressing town.
His mother is divorced, his teachers tell him of all the evils of society and
of no prospects for jobs. His consolation is a tv sitcom, "Pleasantville",
that evokes an imaginary town in which every is, instead, perfect. People are
kind and generous, and life is easy. The episodes center on a perfect family:
perfect husband (George), perfect housewife (Betty)
and two perfect children.
His mother is about to go on a trip and he plans to watch a "Pleasantville"
marathon and participate in a contest.
His sister Jennifer is a wild teenager who is dating a wild guy, and plans to
take advantage of their mother's trip to watch a rock concert on tv with him.
That evening the two teenagers fight over the tv's remote control until they
break it. A tv repair man shows up in no time, even though neither kid called
him. He asks David a couple of "Pleasanton" trivia and, pleased that he knows
the answers, hands him a different remote control. As the kids resume fighting
for the remote control (mirrored on tv by the kids of the tv sitcom who are
fighting over a portable radio), something happens and they get transported
into the black and white world of the tv sitcom itself.
The tv repair man appears to tell them that it's
a miracle. They soon meet the protagonists of the tv sitcom and realize that
they have taken the place of their children: David is Bud
and Jennifer is Mary Sue.
Bud soon realizes that, if they don't play along, Pleasantville would lose its
"perfect" status, so he talks his sister into dating the nerd who likes her.
Bud works at a malt shop with his friend Bill. When he sees his sister take off
with her sweetheart, Bud runs after her, knowing that she wants to have sex
with him. On the way home, for the first time the boy sees a color.
Bud misses the routine at the
malt shop, and Bill has to learn to close the shop by himself, something that
never happened before. Bill stares at Bud's mother like he is in love with her.
The following morning the kid who went out with Mary Sue tells the other boys
at the basketball rehearsal and for the first time they all miss their baskets.
At the malt shop, Bill is having an existential crisis, realizing that his life
Their mother learns of sex between teenagers from her daughter and begins
seeing colors. Realizing that her parents do not have sex, Mary Sue tells her
about masturbation. That night her mom has an orgasm while taking a bath, and
starts seeing everything in color. And a tree catches fire (in full color).
Bud runs to the firemen, who have trouble understanding the concept of a "fire"
(nothing bad ever happens in Pleasantville). Everybody stares at the fire
in awe and disbelief. Bud becomes a hero for saving the town from the fire, but
even that good act has a corrupting consequence: a pretty girl, Margaret,
bakes cookies for him,
whereas in the sitcom she always bakes them for another kid.
At the malt shop all the kids surround Bud and ask him how he knew about the
fire. Bud tells them he used to live in another town. That causes a lot of
commotion: there is a world outside of Pleasantville!
The books used to have only blank pages. As Mary Sue and Bud tell the others
what stories are contained in those books, the pages begin to fill with
characters. Kids take the library by storm... and their clothes have colors.
What David and Jennifer are bringing to Pleasantville is the knowledge and
awareness of the modern humans, which in turn are introducing the passions
that were missing in Pleasantville. This is spoiling the mono-dimensional
black and white routine of the town. Worse: the inhabitants of Pleasantville
David/Bud can't resist asking Margaret out.
The tv repair man appears to me and tells him he is willing to send them back
to the real world. But now David does not want to go back. His date with
Margaret brings colors to the landscape.
Bill, who has learned about art books from Bud, has now become a painter.
Bud's mother visits him and makes love to him.
That night, when George the perfect husband comes home, there is no perfect
housewife to welcome him and no dinner. And it rains.
The thunderstorm terrifies the kids at the park: they have never seen rain.
Bud shows them what rain is.
The following day George is still black and white, but his wife, now an
adulteress, is in full technicolor as she tells him that she is leaving him.
Margaret is also in full colors.
Kids try to attack Betty because she's so colorful, and Bud defends her causing
one of the kids to bleed. Bud is also in full colors now.
The whole of Pleasantville is now in turmoil. Bill's paintings, that clearly
depicts Betty the adulteress, are the last straw. The malt shop is destroyed
by the mob, and new laws are enacted to limit freedom of expression.
Bud and Bill paint a huge color murale where the whole town can see it and
they get arrested. The trial becomes a fight between the ideology of "pleasant"
and Bud's almost transcendental ideology of "knowing" and "seeing".
To prove his point, Bud makes his dad cry, and his dad also turns colorful.
As he convinces more and more people in the courtroom, they acquire colors.
The judge eventually loses his temper (also against the rules of Pleasantville)
and even he acquires colors. The trial is over and the people of Pleasantville
celebrate their new freedom.
The whole town is now in color, every house and every street.
The thing that looked like paradise was actually a jail, and they savor their
The tv repair man helps David return to the real world, but Jennifer decides
to remain in Pleasantville, where she has better chances of a better future.