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New Films: Pleasantville

Director: Gary Ross Starring: Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon
Gary Ross's feature adopts The Truman Show model to rustle up a lovely satire on reactionary family values. Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon are the average Nineties teens (he's trouble, she's hedonistic; both hailing from a broken home) who get spirited into the virtual landscape of Fifties TV show Pleasantville, with its straight-arrow parents and apple-pie innocence. Trouble is that this Eden is a fragile eco-system, and the arrival of our two visitors detonates like a bomb going off. Before too long, Pleasantville gets hip to the evils of abstract art and heavy petting, while luminous colour begins bleeding into the town's monochrome surrounds. Meantime Ross ushers all manner of issues and influences under his liberal umbrella. Pleasantville's visual ingenuity recalls The Wizard of Oz. Its plot riffs off Genesis. Its skirmishes between the old-guard and the "coloureds" play like a fairytale take on segregation. Yet the film's flow is sweet and clean. It airbrushes a glut of references into one easy whole.