Pleasantville Review

by

"Mark Paul" Sebar

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Reviewed November 2nd 1998 by "Mark Paul" Sebar

I suppose this one was unavoidably forthcoming. After having been a good friend of JT's and watching his last performance on the screen, I had to write this...where to begin in an unbiased fashion both reviewing J.T. Walsh's last performance in a film and the film itself.

First the performance of my dear late acting friend JT. As I sat watching his performance as the Mayor of a town, intent on keeping the status quo, I couldn't but help see a lot of the real man I knew. I suppose this is what enthralls many of my friend's fans, is his natural ability to be himself. While this is not unique to an actor, it certainly spruced up the film, especially watching JT's character come to life as a good guy gone bad. JT based characters remind me much of another character I used to hate and love...J.R. Ewing from Dallas. On one hand J.R. was miserable, yet he always smiled, even when things were at their worst. In fact when they were, he was at his best. The same can be said here. JT's character and his ability to bring this kind of character out reminds me of just how on target I was to have him be my lead in "Stupid Cougar Laws." He had a way of being himself, yet believable as the character. What we saw most was a great talent, allowed and respected, to play the character to a core. Before the parts leading to JT there was a great story. But with JT's presence becoming a nice guy turned s.o.b. to the main character, it added a lot of spice. While I won't spoil things, I will say it was typical, but rather sad to see his part end. I really wanted to see more of him, something I realize will not be happening anytime soon. And what a tremendous loss to the world this will be. A loss I shall personally remember for the rest of my days here. The great actor, and a rare ability to play anyone at any place and make you believe. But more important is the loss of my dear friend and what he was as a person.

 

Pleasantville is a lot like The Andy Griffith Show, Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet. It takes place in the late fifties during a more civilized, less sophisticated era, when values were far different than they are today. It presented an all White view of a perfect world lacking Blacks, Asians and Latinos. A world far from the truth. A world that 50's societies were brainwashed into believing really existed. Actually the 50's were as rough as any other time. The tunes of Mister Postman and scenarios of small towns forgot we were engaged in a Korean Conflict, on a brutal tug of war with Communist Russia. But Mayberry's did exist at one time, and to a point. What Pleasantville is, was to have a perfect town where the two main characters, a brother and sister get sent into their television set to this perfect place. What happens is that they learn that people there aren't perfect if they don't want to be, and slowly while corruption of that small world occurs, we see the blunt cardboard characters growing into something like...well HUMAN, if for lack of a better word. Now where the plot of this story lies is in it's simplicity of execution. It's a very straightforward predictable plot, with few twists to contend with. But it's no mystery. For what it is, the movie I will say, was quite good. Once I got into this, I became fascinated in how the characters changed and how they handled these changes. Besides my friend JT Walsh, I was also thrilled to see Don Knotts in the movie. My family and I have always liked Don, and having him in the picture only added to the strength of it. JT was able to portray a good character gone wicked, filled by animosity and contempt to the main character, the boy. And when he couldn't overpower him, well...you all know how JT gets. I did thoroughly enjoy this throw back to the fifties story, and what I did see of the real 50's era, reminds me of how much the world has grown, that we really are one world one people, and that in and of itself is where our strengths lie, if the world is to continue to grow in the coming years. On a scale of 1 to 5 JT's; I will give this a five, not because of his own performance, but because this is a very unique and creative movie deserving of the two hours it will give us, and the escape, if but for a short time, to a perfect world!

 

 

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