Best Drama Movies on Netflix Right Now (2020)

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William H. Macy during ‘Pleasantville’ Los Angeles Premiere at Mann’s National Theater in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
William H. Macy during ‘Pleasantville’ Los Angeles Premiere at Mann’s National Theater in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage) /

No. 29 – Pleasantville (1998)

Written by: Gary Ross

Directed by: Gary Ross

Starring Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, Jeff Daniels, William H. Macy, Joan Allen, and Paul Walker

Is Pleasantville, ultimately, a great film? Probably not. However, it is an effective drama for several reasons. For one, many of the underlying thematic elements in Pleasantville, such as “otherness”, bigotry, societal ignorance, and race, are still relevant topics in today’s political climate. Also, the slow-building tension between the characters that comes from these various themes throughout the movie is very well done by Gary Ross.

Pleasantville is about David and Jennifer, two siblings, who become transported into an old 1950s television show after they both become dissatisfied with their current lives. David, the TV watcher of the two, seems to want to keep the status quo within the Pleasantville world, while Jennifer, the rebel, starts to see opportunities to change a lot of her environment by introducing sex to many of the kids her age within the show. As the people of the town begin to experience parts of themselves they had repressed for so long, tensions arise between those that want it to stay the same (black and white), and those that want freedom (they see and obtain colors).

The standouts in this movie are Jeff Daniels and William H. Macy’s characters, who play David’s boss and father, respectively. Watching Macy attempt to keep his emotions and primal instincts in check is very interesting to watch, as he remains a very relatable character for those of us scared of change in our lives, even when it’s clear that we want it. Joan Allen, who plays David and Jennifer’s Pleasantville mom, also gives a knockout performance when she first explores her sexuality and provides one of the most clever scenes in the movie when she finally transitions over to the colorful side.