October 23, 1998 0 By Fans
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David and the TV repairmanJ.T. Walsh as Big BomDirector Gary RossAt the dinerBud & Bill in the courtroomJeff Daniels as Bill Johnson


Two 1990's teenagers find themselves in a 1950's sitcom where their influence begins to profoundly change that complacent world.

Release Year: 1998

Rating: 7.5/10 (61,609 voted)

Critic's Score: 71/100

Gary Ross

Stars: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen

A brother and sister from the 1990s are sucked into their television set and suddenly find themselves trapped in a 1950s style television show. Here they have loving parents, old fashioned values, and an overwhelming amount of innocence and naivete. Not sure how to get home, they integrate themselves into this "backwards" society and slowly bring some color to this black and white world. But as innocence fades, the two teens begin to wonder if their 90s outlook is really to be preferred.


Tobey Maguire


Reese Witherspoon


William H. Macy

George Parker

Joan Allen

Betty Parker

Jeff Daniels

Bill Johnson

J.T. Walsh

Big Bob

Don Knotts

TV Repairman

Marley Shelton

Margaret Henderson

Jane Kaczmarek

David's Mom

Giuseppe Andrews


Jenny Lewis


Marissa Ribisi


Denise Dowse

Health Teacher

McNally Sagal

Science Teacher

Paul Morgan Stetler

College Counselor

Nothing Is As Simple As Black And White.

Release Date: 23 October 1998

Filming Locations: Pasadena, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $40,000,000


Opening Weekend: $8,855,063
(25 October 1998)
(1636 Screens)

Gross: $40,568,025
(28 March 1999)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


The author of the book that Reese Witherspoon's character is reading, D.H. Lawrence, was an early 20th century author, poet, playwright, essayist, and literary critic. His works were considered highly controversial when they were written, and confronted issues such as emotional health and vitality, spontaneity, human sexuality, and instinct.


On their way to school on the first day, Jennifer/Mary Sue gets angry and pulls her hair clips out – just before Skip pulls up in his car. After Skip drives away her hair is suddenly clipped back again.


[first lines]

[David is gazing admiringly at a pretty blonde girl]


I mean, Hi. Uh, look, you probably don't think I should be asking you this. I mean, not knowing you well and all? I mean, you know, I, I, I know you, 'cause everybody knows you. I just don't know you technically. Uh, anyhow. Uh, I don't know what you're doing this weekend, but my mom's leaving town, and she's letting me borrow the car.
[the camera pulls back to show that the girl is standing several dozen feet away and, in fact, is smiling and looking at another boy]


User Review

I heard about this movie, but I didn't know that it would be THIS good….

Rating: 10/10

I knew what this film would be about before I rented it, but I'm stunned
that it would be THIS good. Nothing against "Saving Private Ryan" or
"Shakespeare in Love", but this film should have won Best Picture in 1998
and it was a shame that it wasn't nominated. It's an even bigger injustice
that it did not get a nomination for best screenplay or

In the hands of another writer, this movie could have been made as just a
parody of 1950's sitcoms like "Leave It To Beaver" or "Ozzie and Harriet."
But this film isn't about how clichéd those series look decades later. It's
about the false nostalgia for a past that never existed. We survived the
past and we know that everything turned out all right. Because of this, we
selectively choose our memories and weed out the unpleasant ones. That's
the past is sometimes seen as "the good ol' days." Pleasantville does not
represent how the 50's actually were but rather an idealization of what
people THINK the 50's were—no one had sex, everyone got along swell, and
life was fairly easy. Nothing could be further from the truth, and there
many film from that era which show how real people (even in suburbia)
actually lived. This film argues that free will and choice is ESSENTIAL to
life and that we should embrace freedom instead of fearing it. It isn't
about making out, but having the OPTION to make out.

Another reviewer claimed that this film was an attack on the 50's, but
and Jennifer could very easily have been dumped in the world of "The Brady
Bunch", "Gilligan's Island" , or "Batman." But setting "Pleasantville" in a
1950's sitcom allows for the brilliant metaphor of black and white versus
color. Black and white photography is a stylized depiction of the universe,
but unless you're color blind it's not the way you actually see the
universe. When we first see Pleasantville's citizens, all of them are
cardboard cut-outs of stereotypes. As they begin to open up and become real
people, color seeps into their world. The catalyst seems to be the
willingness to experience new sensations and become vulnerable. Jennifer
slept with lot of guys when she was in the normal world, so sex does not
change HER into a color character. On the other hand, when she actually
finishes a book (without pictures) for the first time in her life, THEN she
becomes colorized. Similarly, David does not bloom into color until he
breaks out of his aloofness and defends his "mother." Compare the way he
ignores his real mother at the beginning of the film to how he consoles and
comforts her at the end to see how much David has changed.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. There are a lot of
out there that are very entertaining and/or very moving–like "Raiders of
the Lost Ark" or "Titanic." Movies like "Pleasantville" which challenge the
audience and force them to think are very rare, and should be treasured by
the discerning filmgoer.