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Still shot from the movie: Pleasantville.

Pleasantville

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Overall: D
Violence: B
Sexual Content: D
Language: D+
Drugs/Alcohol: --
Theater Release:
Video Release:
MPAA Rating: PG-13
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Pleasantville's beginning minutes include three scenes taking place in a high school classroom where students are told of increased competition for jobs, increased global warming, and the increased chance of encountering HIV in a non-monogynous relationship. Obviously Pleasantville's creator, Gary Ross, is aware of our world's problems -- which leaves me confused as to his intentions.

Amongst these students are David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), teenage siblings of opposite natures. Jennifer spends her time perusing sexual interests with cool guys, while insecure David longs for a happy family life, just like the one he often views in the fictitious 1950's television program Pleasantville.

Through a magical remote control, David and Jennifer find themselves sucked into the black and white world of Pleasantville. At first David feels he's found utopia, but Jennifer, immediately frustrated with living in "nerdsville," sets out to change the world. Her tactic is to introduce the people of Pleasantville to sex. Soon the entire high school is having sex at the local "make out" spot. Next Jennifer encourages her television mother to try masturbating, which she does in a scene that stretches the PG-13 rating.

As change comes to Pleasantville, the characters begin to burst into color. Although we are told it's acceptance of change and not sex that causes this metamorphosis, creator Gary Ross dwells mainly on the liberalization of sexual attitudes. Even Jennifer, who only becomes "colored" when she learns to enjoy reading, selects the controversial Lady Chatterley's Lover as her first book. "It's sexy," she says.

While Ross's movie is skillfully constructed and technically creative, his argument is faulty. He wants us to believe that Pleasantville is an accurate portrayal of 1950's society. In truth, just like Ross's movie, Pleasantville is only a media creation in which the writer is god, and has full control over the actions and consequences characters will face. Given another 30 years, the seeds planted by Jennifer and David would lead to the problems we face of HIV, Teen pregnancy and high divorce rates. So what is his point?

Pleasantville is rated PG-13:

Studio: 1999 New Line Home Video Inc.

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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