Pleasantville

  • Review Date: January 10, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1998

Common Sense Media says

Thought-provoking look at past and present teen life.
  • Review Date: January 10, 2005
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1998

Age(i)

2
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series underscores the need for living life to the fullest, the beauty that comes with making individual choices, and about the importance of recognizing both the idyllic and the ugly in order to do so. Tolerance of change and of difference, marriage, and divorce are also themes.

Positive role models

David (a.k.a. Bud) takes responsibility for gently leading Pleasantville out of its naive existence, and tries to be a positive role model. Jennifer (a.k.a. Mary Sue) is less gentle, but begins to redefine who she as a result of the experience. Some Pleasantville community members promote intolerance. David and Jennifer's mother is having relationship issues.

Violence

Intolerance leads to some angry, riotous behavior, including the smashing of windows, looting, and a fist fight. A bloody lip is visible.

Sex

Mostly we see flirting, kissing, and couples making out in cars, with perhaps some feet sticking out of a car window. (These teens are just becoming aware of sex.) A mom character masturbates in a bathtub and moans loudly. She is married, but begins an affair with another man; he paints her nude and displays the painting in his shop window. A character uses the word "slut" to describe herself. Overall, the movie manages to imply sex-on-the-brain without resorting to talk, such as showing the image of a double-bed in a store window, complete with a concerned crowd of onlookers outside.

Language

Language is somewhat strong, but isn't frequent. "F--k" is used once, and "s--t" can be heard a few times. The term "Jesus Christ" is frequently used. Words like "hell," "bitch," "goddamn," and "s--t" are occasionally audible.

Consumerism

Logos like Buick and Cadillac visible on cars.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A teenager is shown smoking; a reference is made to "dying for a cigarette."

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Pleasantville contains lots of messages about living life to the fullest, the need for passion, and the courage to accept change. Sexual situations are frequent (including some loud moaning and paintings of nude figures), but a fair share of the references will go over young kids' heads. The term "Jesus Christ" is audible; words like "hell," "bitch," "s--t," and "f--k" are used a few times, too. Intolerant behavior leads to some riotous behavior (and a bloody lip). Teen smoking is briefly visible. All this being said, the main teen characters are strong and become positive role models.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

David (Tobey Maguire) and Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) are well aware of the messy complications of the modern world. David retreats into reruns of "Pleasantville," an idyllic black and white 1950s television show. And Jennifer is something of a self-described "slut." When they get ahold of a magic remote control, David and Jennifer are changed into Pleasantville's Bud and Mary Sue. The twins can't help reveal Pleasantville's limits, and begin to transform it. Mary Sue mischievously introduces the idea of sex to classmates, and then, more sensitively, to her Pleasantville mother (Joan Allen). Bud tells them about a world where people can go against status quo. As the characters begin to change, they and their surroundings bloom into color. But some residents of Pleasantville are threatened and terrified by the changes. "No colored" signs appear in store windows, new rules are imposed, and tensions mount.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

High schoolers may appreciate the way that the twins, at first retreating in different ways from the problems of the modern world, find that the rewards of the examined life make it ultimately worthwhile. Parents and teens alike will find many things to think and talk about after watching PLEASANTVILLE, including the movie's parallels to Nazi Germany (book burning) and American Jim Crow laws ("No colored" signs), and the challenges of independent thinking.

Also intriguing is the path of Jennifer's character. At first, she thinks that it is sex that turns the black and white characters into color. But when she stays "pasty," she realizes that the colors reveal something more subtle and meaningful -- the willingness to challenge the accepted and opening oneself up to honest reflection about one's own feelings and longings.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how sex is portrayed in the movie. Is it exploitative or educational? Even though much of the sexual activity is implied, what messages does it send about sexual situations, especially among teenagers?

  • Parents: What are some of the ways you can talk to your kids about some of the issues presented here?

  • Would you prefer to live in the 1950s, or in modern times? Which does the movie seem to prefer?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 23, 1998
DVD release date:June 1, 2004
Cast:Reese Witherspoon, Tobey Maguire, William H. Macy
Director:Gary Ross
Studio:New Line
Genre:Drama
Run time:124 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:some thematic elements emphasizing sexuality, and for language

This review of Pleasantville was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bycrownjewel82 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

Great Movie

This is one of my favorites. Mostly because of the creative way that the social issues of the 50s and 60s are presented. It's a great story full of laughs. There's only one scene where you might need to make a judgement call.

The way the sex scenes are presented, it's bluntly obvious what's going on for those who are old enough to know and those who aren't it isn't. It's all set ups and kissing and such. There are some mentions of sex but nothing more than a sex-ed class.

Most teenagers will be more than ok with this movie on their own. Even younger kids would be ok with this movie if you watch it with them. They're likley to have questions but mostly about the social situations and not any of the sex related scenes.

Teen, 15 years old Written bybubbo April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

Good...

Pleasantville is a very good film with an original story, and some amazing visuals. Watching the black and white town slowly turn to color is absolutely enchanting! But parents, be warned--there is some strong sexual content for a PG-13, including one especially akward scene where a character masturbates.

Adult Written byAshnak April 9, 2008
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

Very Different Movie

This movie address a lot of social issues via the back door. It uses parallels and symbolism to make a great point against many things including racism and parent child misunderstandings

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