"There are some places that the road doesn't go in a circle. There are some places where the road keeps going."
A deliberately troperrific
1998 movie starring Reese Witherspoon
and Tobey Maguire
. Main characters Jennifer and David are a pair of siblings who, during an argument over who gets to use the big TV in the living room, wind up Trapped in TV Land
due to a strange TV repairman and a stranger magical remote. Specifically, they wind up in Pleasantville
, an old black-and-white show portraying the stereotypical 1950s American suburb (along the lines of Leave It to Beaver
or Father Knows Best
, but even more idealistic). David is thrilled because it's his favorite show; it is a happy world where nothing bad ever happens (as a contrast to David and Jennifer's unstable home life). Jennifer, being more of a party girl, finds Pleasantville incredibly dull and wants to liven the place up. Still, they both want to get home, and David wants to do so without upsetting the community — but the repairman gets antsy and they're stuck.
Their presence winds up throwing the heavily-idealized world into chaos. As things become less idealized and more like the real world, they begin to show up in color instead of black and white — people cease to be monochrome whenever they stop staying nice and snug within their boundaries and break out, displaying some inner truth about their character.
For an oddly similar experience in book form, try The Giver
This movie provides examples of the following tropes:
- Kubrick Stare: George has one at the bowling alley after he came to the house while Betty decides to leave George, it's raining in Pleasantville for the first time, and there's no dinner.
- Lampshade Hanging: David is very genre savvy, and constantly points out tropes as they happen in-universe (but not for the movie as a whole). He even tries to warn his sister against defying tropes.
- Letting Her Hair Down: Inverted by Mary Sue/Jennifer. She originally wears her hair loose but as she discovers the joy of reading and becomes studious, she wears her hair up or tied in a high ponytail.
- Love Epiphany: David gets George to realize exactly why he misses Betty, and it's not for the cooking and cleaning she does.
- Love Triangle: Part of Betty's awakening is cheating on her husband with the guy who owns the malt shop. (One of the odder moments in the film, as Betty has a pregnant "moment" with Bill when they first meet that comes out of nowhere.)
- Mary Sue: Invoked in the form of the perfect, sweet sister character named Mary Sue — although once Jennifer assumes her role, this quickly ends.
- Meaningful Name: What's the name of the sweet, perfect girl in Pleasantville? Mary Sue.
- Monochrome Casting: 50s sitcoms were in fact lily-white, but one couldn't be faulted for thinking a movie so concerned with racism and culture change could have found a way around this.
- Nobody Poops: There aren't any toilets. When inspected, the stalls turn out to be empty.
- Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Parodied and ultimately subverted; the world of the show is initially the rosy idea of The Fifties that everyone loves to reminisce about, but once the "colour infection" starts to spread, the uglier side of the decade (such as "racial" and gender discrimination) is gradually reflected.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. In the TV series, both the mother and one of Mary Sue's friends are named "Betty".
- Romantic Rain: It starts raining on David and Margaret's date.
- Rule of Symbolism: The movie makes an Adam and Eve allusion twice the first time when Jennifer sleeps with Skip, setting into motion Pleasantville becoming more "realistic." The second time is less subtle, with Margaret giving an apple to David.
- Screw Destiny: David's view is initially to follow the plots of the show by heart, but he eventually comes to embrace this trope.
- Sexless Marriage: All of the marriages in Pleasantville, at least until the protagonists start shaking things up.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The world of Pleasantville starts out with the dial pegged on Idealism, and steadily moves it over to Realism.
- So What Do We Do Now?: The end of the movie:
George: Do you know what's going to happen now?
Betty: No, I don't. Do you know what's going to happen?
George: (chuckles) No... I don't. [Camera pans over to Betty, then back to where George sat]
Bill: [Sitting in George's chair] I guess I don't either.
- Splash of Color: The town is in black-and-white until our heroes begin encouraging the natives to think for themselves. Ironically, David and Jennifer are not the first to change; they too must grow as people — Jennifer complains she is one of the last to change despite having more sex than anybody else in town, but this teaches her it's not all about sex.
- Stealth Pun: Some early film posters colored "tv" differently from the rest of the title.
- Stepford Suburbia: Pleasantville is not as happy as it seems. People of Pleasantville gradually realize they have passions and desires that might not correspond to their scripted role.
- Sweater Girl: Jennifer is taken aback when she puts on the typical sweater and bullet bra.
Jennifer: I could, like, kill a guy with these things.
- The Talk: Zig-Zagged, in that it's a teenage daughter giving it to her mother, and then when the mother is sure the father won't be interested, the daughter points out that the man is actually dispensable.
- Tempting Apple: David is offered an apple by his girlfriend in a film all about a fictional town's loss of innocence.
- The Theme Park Version: Although Pleasantville the town might appear to be taken straight from a 1950s sitcom, sitcoms of that era were not actually that simple for the most part; references to pop culture, the outside world and even sexuality occurred on even the strictest shows.
- Umbrella of Togetherness: David gives Margaret a red umbrella which he found among theatre props — she doesn't know what it is at first, but she loves it. They later share a kiss, hiding under the umbrella.
- The Unfair Sex: Set up as if it's going to be played straight, but takes a different path. The wife who finds another love interest is portrayed sympathetically... but so is her husband, who simply doesn't understand how she feels, and his defining moment is realizing how much he loves her. The movie ends with all three noting that they don't know how this will turn out.
- Weirdness Search and Rescue: The film had the TV Repairman, who instigated the Trapped in TV Land plot, and then ineffectually tried to stop the fallout from it.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the old Bud and Mary Sue? You'd think that even the old Bud would come back once David leaves.
- When Dimensions Collide: What the protagonists' presence does to Pleasantville. Everything is excessively pleasant (as well as lacking colour, there is no rain, crime, homelessness, fire, sex or toilets). Throughout the film their actions impact the world around them and colours and concepts from the real world (like fire, sex, colour and rain) start to appear as a result.
- Wrap Around: Early in the film, the town's topology is such that someone going off one side of the town would end up on the other side.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: A week in Pleasantville is half an hour in the real world.