This file was generated 2003-02-20 06:06 GMT. This movie's information hasn't changed since 2002-04-28.

Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> December 1998 >> Pleasantville


Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
4 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
December 1998
IMDB Name:
Pleasantville (1998)
Gary Ross
comedy, drama
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 for some thematic elements emphasizing sexuality, and for language.

The Year of the Television

Television was a big theme in the movies in 1998 and 1999. Summer 1998 brought The Truman Show, in which a man unknowingly lived his life on live television. October ushered in Pleasantville, in which teenagers are magically sent to play parts in a sitcom set forty years in the past. Then EDtv covered the crass end of the spectrum. I enjoyed all three at some level, but EDtv just doesn't have any lasting appeal for me.

A New Appreciation of Color

When I saw Pleasantville in the theater, I was dazzled by the color once it reappeared. I was already grooving on the acting, the concept, and the score. It had also been a delight to lapse into the dreamy qualities of black and white. The mixture of color and grey in the frame is one of those visuals that just makes you stare and stare, trying to guess the trick. Even without that, the set design and costumes offer stunning contrast that would probably have looked amazing even in a normal movie. Even after I got home, seeing a yellow towel in the bathroom almost made me jump!

Nitpicking Spoilers!

DVD Comments

The initial impression made by the Pleasantville DVD isn't all that great. When I heard the familiar soaring strings at the beginning of New Line discs like Dark City, I thought I was in for a treat. There a nice amount of information here, but nothing snazzy about the presentation. There are no animations in the menus, which isn't a crime, but seems flat. The case brags about special tricks for properly adjusting the television characteristics. This consists of four still frames during which the user is supposed to diddle with their settings until they look right. No indication of what's right is provided. Worse, these stills show up before every showing of the movie, inspiring me to fast forward.

It's not often that I notice annoyances in the transfer, but two leap to mind. In one of the first monochrome scenes, there were some interlacing artifacts during a fast horizontal motion. Much worse, the layer change happens across a thunderclap. Since my player pauses for about a second on layer changes, this was really distracting. I'm surprised that a layer change was necessary at all, although I suppose four audio tracks are justification.

Speaking of the audio tracks, I was looking forward to the director's commentary. Instead, I found the writer's commentary. Ross wrote and directed, but he apparently feels the writing is much more important and spends very little time talking about the cast, the effects, or things technical. There is also a commentary track of score composer Randy Newman with the isolated score.

See the IMDB information on Pleasantville's DVD or compare prices at DVD Price Search.

Other Opinions

Copyright 1998-2002 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.