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Academy Award® Nominee
Two 90's kids are catapulted into the 50's sitcom world of Pleasantville, a place where the weather is always the same, conformity is natural, and everyone is in black & white...until now.

Starring Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire...  View more >

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Reviews Summary

Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
After eagerly awaiting the release of this film since first seeing the trailers,imagine my disappointment in finding a film lacking a coherent plot and that wastes no time in character developement. This film may play well with the art house crowd since it spends so much time speaking metaphoricly, but as far as the average family looking to be entertained, forget it. Boredom and confusion reigned at the Eastgate in Madison when I saw this movie. This movie is the biggest disappointment since Godzilla.

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Pleasantville definately goes on the list for the most boring, unentertaining, pointless movie of the year list. The plot never picked up, it had no comedy, even less action and no romance!It was two hours of constant boredom! The best part of the movie was the previews shown at the begining!

The characters were all no namers and will remain that way after the performance they gave in this low quality film. The boy who played the lead in this film was a mama's boy geek and the girl was nothing more than a common slut.

I came out of the film wishing I could have those two hours of my life back. I would not recommend any one to see this film. It has too many sexual references to be a kids film and is way too dumb for any adult. Your money would be better spent if you just threw the seven bucks into the garbage can.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Pleasantville (1998)

There is no town called "Pleasantville" in my state. But as my son and I left the theater, we saw a scene that could have been Main Street in the film Pleasantville. The uptown area of a midwestern town: banks and small businesses, a gas station and United Dairy Farmers on the corner. Red bricks pave the street.

Gary Ross's version of Pleasantville has to be taken as a fable. There are too many unexplained motives and twists. Why would a TV repairman (Don Knotts) show up at a house just seconds after the remote is broken? Why would he send the children of the house into the black-and-white world of a 1958 sitcom? How do the two survive there without access to bathrooms?

Once you have suspended your disbelief, however, Pleasantville is a pleasant diversion, one that is filled with delightful effects that generate fascinating ideas.

Tobey Maguire plays David, the slightly younger brother of Jennifer (Reese Witherspooon). Quickly we see even David's sister perceives him as a dork; one of her friends comments, "You must have come from, like, the cool side of the uterus." It is when David and Jennifer have a tug o' war over a new and mysterious remote that they are thrust back into the pasty world of sexless situation comedy, the domain of Ozzie Nelson and Donna Reed and Robert Young (though here the teens get more of a taste of Rod Serling). When the repairman refuses to speak with them, Bud and Mary Sue - the names of the TV characters they have replaced - are forced to inhabit the odd world whose "plots" David has memorized. I was concerned that Pleasantville would jump on the bandwagon of cop-outs that dismisses large parts of the past as inferior and incorrect. But the film is out neither to put down the past nor to pique our nostalgia. What works best is the film's ideas. First, it's one of the best arguments against censorship that has been added to our literature in some time. A book burning scene is not as eerie, perhaps, as one in Fahrenheit 451, though its implications are just as chilling. More importantly, the film acts as the quintessential advertisement for the arts, going so far as to suggest they are indispensable to our humanity. As a teacher, I only hope that younger viewers notice that good things happen to the residents when they read or paint. The metaphorical black-and-white pallor vanishes in the person who goes after the "color" in life.

In Big and Dave, Gary Ross pursued unlikely storylines. Here he expands upon his themes of magical accidents happening to everyday people. And the tricks Ross employs are wonderful, the tale making use of technology not for explosions but for bizarre split-screens of color and meaning. A red rose is the first hue seen by Skip (Paul Walker), captain of the high school basketball team who has just been deflowered by Mary Sue Parker. Her brother Bud connects the outbreaks of color to her transplanted 90's sensibilities. Herein lies one of the film's weaknesses, when Bud constantly nags Mary Sue not to impose her behaviors on the innocent past. It's as if we are watching a Bradbury story and the time travelers are threatened with the prospect of throwing off the entire future through a misplaced and miniscule action. It's Bud, too, who later tells his television dad, George Parker (William H. Macy), that change is inevitable and good, that it's harder to go back to the way you were before.

Ross is very clever when he re-enacts the fall of Adam and Eve, with a girl plucking a red apple from a black-and-white tree and tempting Bud. This is not heavy-handed symbolism; it's tongue-in-cheek mind-play, suggesting that life is happier when it is not sterile and perfect: it's best when there is silliness and sexiness and even danger. Timeless and entertaining ideas, these, the stuff of good literature.

In one of the most charming subplots, Betty Parker finds her color by debunking the myths of dutiful wife and mother. Looking like Pat Nixon again, Joan Allen is perfect in the role. We chuckle when we see she must learn about sex from her daughter, who is now a regular at lover's lane. And when Mr. Johnson (Jeff Daniels) rubs off the make-up she is using to cover her flesh tones, Betty realizes the potential of her own long-denied emotions. Daniels also excels as Mr. Johnson, owner of the soda shop where Bud works. Good at looking baffled at Bud's explanations, Daniels conveys the slow but complete change his character accomplishes. Viewers will be fond of remembering a scene in which Bud brings Mr. Johnson a large art book from the library. Johnson likes to paint Christmas scenes on the inside of his shop window, and here his epiphany is clear when he glimpses for the first time the Titians and Van Goghs, the sweet strains of Randy Newman's Pleasantville Suite rising in the background.

Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon portray the most interesting relationship in the film. As brother and sister, they bicker and ignore and defy, but just like the characters in the world they occupy, they end happily. Witherspoon brings to her role a calculated agenda that only seems whimsical. She puts on just the right wiles. On the other hand, Maguire seems almost entirely innocent. At times puzzled or frustrated, Maguire is best at the earnest straight-talking that serves as the film's most heavy-handed message, in a speech delivered to his real mother. It's here that the script stumbles -- not Maguire's acting. Both actors are beyond the teenage years they depict, but so probably are the rest of the supporting soda shop gang.

In his last role, J. T. Walsh is superb as "Big Bob," the mayor and head-honcho of the chamber of commerce and bowling league. Walsh adds good comic timing to the dry edge given to his character, reminiscent of Dub Taylor or Martin Balsam, character actors capable of getting laughs out of dead-serious dialogue. His short hair combed straight up in what the venerable barber in our town calls a "Princeton," Walsh wheedles and pontificates nicely. The script fails him too, though, when his character charges off screen at the end of an otherwise powerful "trial."

I know why the producers chose the Beatles' song for the soundtrack, but why did they get Fiona Apple to sing it in a sleepy and sluggish voice? The other parts of the soundtrack are charming, Newman's generic but still moving compositions mixed with vintage pieces, snippets of which we hear at crucial spots in the story.

Leaving the theater, the film's ideas strong and immediate in my head, I remembered a Saturday afternoon eight years ago. I had taken my son to see the first Ninja Turtles, and when we stepped out onto High Street, we saw a crowded and boisterous uptown. I had forgotten about the Klan rally. These happened in other towns, not ours. As we stood before the old marquee of the Princess Theater, I thought quickly how I could get my 5 year-old to the car with safety and a minimal explanation.

It occurred to me that perhaps the most worthy part of Pleasantville is its attempt to engage profound ideas. Sure, a lot is left unexplained, but we are also asked to think about the nature of hate and prejudice, the unpleasant colors in the human spectrum.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Pleasantville - It’s been a great year for good looking pictures and top-notch production values. Pleasantville joins What Dreams May Come and Dark City as one of the year’s best looking pictures. It’s also a very entertaining piece that surprised me by turning more deep and meaningful that I anticipated it would. Symbolism and several important commentaries on society make Pleasantville the rare picture that makes the viewer think while simultaneously being entertained. Performances: I’d like to see an Oscar nomination for Joan Allen. Bill Macy is perfectly cast, and Tobey Maguire carries the heavy burden of the lead admirably.

10-point scale rating: 8

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
I really enjoyed "Pleasantville". It was a movie that, unlike many current films, has an actual plot and meaning to it. The cinematography and use of color was superb, and I found myself waiting to see which things would appear in color next. The movie has a far deeper symbolism that it appears to have, and it is this symbolism which makes it such a good movie.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
I would recommend this to anybody. One of the few movies I would actually pay to see!

[--- Stay Away! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
After seeing the previews for "Pleasentville", I felt I'd seen the complete scope of the movie. Two teenagers get sucked into an ultra-conservative "TV show" world and wreak havoc with their non-conformist-type ways and ideas. This film repeatedly hits you over the head with its sappy and obvious analogies and manipulative camera effects. It contains the usual Hollywood emotion grabbers; the tear running down Joan Allen's face when she sees a "true" work of art, the rainbow over the town when its inhabitants finally see "the light", the burning of the books, and the oh so clear cut line between what is "right" and what is "wrong". This movie is the perfect example of how movies can be "good" in the worst way.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Pleasantville is a great film. It is worth seeing for it's originality alone. It is a heart felt, life and love affirming drama. The acting is excellent, the writing is excellent, and the special effects are superb. A sure Oscar contender. It is also a film full of messages about loving life and finding fulfillment.

This is a film for people with heart and spirit. A film for people who appreciate quality film making. If you are someone who needs constant explosions, people being killed, and two word catch phrases, then this is not the film for you. If you are someone who loves great dramas then do not hesitate to see Pleasantville.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
"Pleasantville," is it so pleasant? This movie raises many issues concerning the differences between today's society and the ideal, white picket fence society that we think of in old TV sitcoms. Many people probably think that the "perfect" life portrayed in those sitcoms would be better to live in than the real world. This movie presents many ideas that are the opposite of that idea.

The movie starts out in the real world. David (Tobey Maguire), the boy in the movie, is seen lounging on the couch scarfing potato chips and watching an episode of the TV sitcom Pleasantville. He seems to be truly obsessed with this show, and he is greatly anticipating an all-night Pleasantville marathon that is coming that weekend. Besides just the actual viewing of his favorite show for hours on end, David is also looking forward to some sort of Pleasantville trivia contest that is going to be held. With his extremely detailed knowledge of everything about the show Pleasantville, David feels very confident that he will win.

David's sister Jenny (Reese Witherspoon) is completely different than her brother. She represents a ditsy, boy-crazy, high school girl that is completely concerned with appearances and popularity. The big event in her life at the moment is a date with a guy who she has obviously been interested in for awhile. He is supposed to come over to her house to watch a concert on MTV.

Where would a movie be without a problem? The first situation that causes a problem in this movie is a debate over who gets to watch TV on the nice TV in the living room. Jenny's date happens to be at the exact same time that the Pleasantville marathon starts. Neither David nor Jenny is willing to back down. A fight over the remote control causes the remote to be broken, and therefore, the TV is completely useless. At least it would have been if it wasn't for a mysterious TV repair man (Don Knotts) showing up at the door. David happens to mention that he is anxious to watch the Pleasantville marathon. This causes David to swap Pleasantville facts with the repair man, who eventually gives David and Jenny a curious looking remote to use for their TV.

The repair man leaves them with the words that the remote will put them right in the show, which is exactly what it does. At first, David and Jenny are confused as to what has happened. When they realize that they are playing the parts of the children of the family on the show Pleasantville, they just want to go home.

Throughout the movie, the changes that David and Jenny bring to Pleasantville, the ways that they make it more like the world we live in, were shown by the appearance of color. That was a very effective and creative idea.

Basically, the people of Pleasantville are happy, but they are naive. It's the kind of situation where they are too ignorant to know that they aren't happy. Is that really an ideal way to live? This movie brings up the issues of prejudice, women's rights, and freedom of expression, just to name a few. I found this movie very thought provoking and intriging. It's an original movie based on an original idea. Despite all of the problems in our society, it makes one appreciate the freedoms of the world that we live in. We really do take many of these freedoms for granted. A family film? I'm not so sure that young children would understand and fully appreciate this movie, but it's definately a winner for anyone and everyone else.

Jan 25, 2000
First of all....I really liked it. Ignore any review (and reviewer) that says different. We live in a day and age that we seems like every movie has a touch of this old film and bit of that one...or is a remake or possibly a re-release. But Pleasantville is none of that...it is unique, fresh, reflective, pleasant (you knew I was going to use that word someplace), sad, but yet still had a touch of fun. The film begins by looking at the interaction between and the lives of a brother (Tobey Maguire) and sister (Reese Witherspoon). The brother is very content with his life and enjoys watching television, in particular, the show, Pleasantville. His sister, a bit more outgoing, enjoys meeting new people and seeing where this interaction will lead. A fight over which show to watch results in the intervention by Don Knotts (of Andy Griffith and Three's Company fame). Maguire and Witherspoon are wisked into the television set and take center stage as two of the Pleasantville cast. The only difference is while the world may be watching a tv show, to them, this is their reality. The film appears to be in black and white, but as each character opens their mind or changes from the perception of the Pleasantville tv show, then they begin to gain color. As those in color become more prevalent, the old black & whites become resistant to change. To ebb the flow of change, the black and whites react violently against the "new colors" and begin placing restrictions on them. Yes the similarities of the 60s civil rights movement are here as are the violent acts of the Nazis in pre-World War II. But while you see these, you are also brought to the realization that there still exists a great deal of prejudice, discrimination, and close-mindedness in this world. One of the most pleasing aspects of this film is the cinematography, the mixing of the colors with the black & white shots were great. The story keeps your interest and the characters impact upon each member of the audience in their own special way. This is one film to see for I think you will hear more about it around Oscar time. Bottom line...if we open our minds more towards others, letting them be who they are, rather than who we want them to be, then not only will we be richer in color, but also richer in character.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
The day to day of classes, meals, homework and workouts dictates my structured routine, my “Pleasantville.” No where in my knowledge do I know of such a “Pleasantville,” except in the classic shows of the fifties where everything is swell and dandy like in “Leave it to Beaver,” "Father Knows Best" and "My Three Sons."

Gary Ross, director and writer, recreates this Garden of Eden. Tobey Maguire plays David—a dork caught up in the re-runs of the 1958-television show, “Pleasantville.” Reese Witherspoon—has a cute face—plays Jennifer, David's older sister, who is a senior whore at their high school.

After fighting over a special remote control given to them by the TV repairman (Don Knotts), they are warped back to a world toned on a gray-scale, lack of lust, sex and education of anything but the history of Pleasantville. In some mysterious link through the TV, David and Jennifer, who had just replaced the characters of Bud and Mary Sue, could communicate with the repairman, their escape to reality. At first, I thought the movie would be a modern take off of the stupid movie “Remote Control,” but “Pleasantville" took a much deeper turn.

It touches on the topics of change, censorship and segregation. Mary Sue ruins their life of everything being happy. On her date with Captain of the basketball team, she teaches him about sex at Lover’s Lane. Moments after his devirgination, he sees a bright red rose upon a gray background—a picture that will linger in the viewers mind for days. He then tells the other players of sex, and they indulge themselves at Lover’s Lane.

The movie, rated PG-13, seemed very sexual in nature. It is sex that brings about color in their perfect community. Masturbation that reeks fire and nude models posed in paintings that brings the thoughts of being something different. The soda pop stand clerk Mr. Johnson (Jeff Daniels) desires to be something he was not, but a potential within him when Bud gives him a book full of great pieces of Van Gogh and other famous painters. Flipping to the middle of the book he comes first to a painting of a bare man and woman. Inspired, he paints a naked masterpiece on his shop's windows. This causes chaos amongst the citizens of Pleasantville leading to segregation of coloreds and black and whites.

Ross replays the fall of Eden when Bud is tempted into eating of the forbidden fruit, a bright red apple on a gray tree. This change revolutionizes the perfect routine, which explodes the very verity of color into our unpredictable lives.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie both entertains and presents some very interesting social commentary.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Pleasantville was an all around great movie. I loved the use of color and lighting. It made the movie so much more interesting. I recommend this movie to anyone because of its uniqueness and originality. Basically the movie is about a brother and sister who get sucked into the t.v. show Pleasantville. The sister, a whore is on a date with the captain of the basketball team and introduces him to sex. He then goes and tells his friends on the basketball team. When they have sex they get colored. It then turns into a fight between the coloreds and non coloreds.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
A lot of fun. Most people will "get" it. Creative. Some sexual stuff but kids might miss it.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Pleasantville was a movie that has meaning but isn't worth seeing in the theatre. The movie reflected how change provides opportunity and growth. It depictes how full life can be when people are different and when they display emotion. The music reflects how values also changed. The movie has music by Elvis and then changes to more of the 90's. Overall, it was a good, down-to-earth movie with meaning, however, it can wait to be rented.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Pleasantville is a frighteningly truthful look into the depths of human emotion and social conformity. It starts out as another comedy, but transforms into a metaphorical allegory of biblical proportions. This movie will entertain and provoke thought.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Pleasantville is very unique and original, which is a nice surprise for a change. The plot is very developed and interesting. The black and white mixed with color is cool. It can be a little slow, but overall, it's a good movie. There is fine acting, especially by Joan Allen and William H. Macy. This film is from the director of another original work, Big. My rating: * * *

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
"Pleasantville." Mmm, good movie. Good, not great.

I liked "Pleasantville." It's hard to say why, but I did. This film is about a teenage brother and sister living in 90's America. David (Tobey Maguire) is somewhat of an outcast who is unhappy with his life and gets his kicks watching "Pleasantville," a black-and-white 1950s TV show. Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) is a sexually active teenage girl. One stormy night, a mysterious TV repairman (Don Knotts) gives them a new remote control to replace their broken one. During a fight over the new remote, they suddenly find themselves sucked into the world of Pleasantville.

In Pleasantville, everything is perfect. Too perfect. Too COLORLESS. As is to be expected, the arrival of David and Jennifer (who everyone thinks are Bud and Mary Sue) causes problems, not the least of which is things turning color.

There are plenty of cliches in this film. A few TOO many, I thought, and that is what keeps this from being a truly great movie. The solutions are a bit too obvious and literal. I thought the film needed a slightly more "mystical" tone. Not everything can be explained, but everything is explained quite literally in "Pleasantville." In fact, most of the solutions are telegraphed far in advance. When all the Pleasantville youth turn color after having sex, Jennifer/Mary Sue wonders why she hasn't turned color yet, since she's had almost every guy in town. It's perfectly obvious that the fact that she's HAD every guy in town prevents her from turning color. As I said, utterly predictable, but it's nice, in a way, to know that everyone can't have a "quick fix" to become a better person. You've got to work at it.

For all its shortcomings, "Pleasantville" still manages to be an enjoyable movie. The visuals here are breathtaking, particularly when the town is in its "half-colorized" stage. Seeing splashes of color against a backdrop of gray is stunning to the eye and provides a pleasing image for the viewer. The performances are good here as well. Maguire and Witherspoon make a nice team, while William H. Macy plays their "TV dad" to a T. Joan Allen does a great job of helping the viewer connect emotionally with the picture in her "June Cleaver" role of Betty Parker. I felt Jeff Daniels' performance was a little forced, but it didn't detract fom the film. J. T. Walsh, in his final film, plays Big Bob, the town's staunchest objector to the colorization of Pleasantville.

This film has a message to give, that a "perfect world" may not be so perfect after all. Everyone has to face their own shortcomings eventually, and everyone needs to try new things. If they don't, why is life worth living? "Pleasantville" is a pleasing film with characters you can sympathize with, and stunning visuals. It just misses the mark of being a truly brilliant film, however, mostly because it's not ambitious enough. Perhaps it should have tackled some more challenging issues than individualism and racism. We all know people should be individuals, and that racism's bad, so why hit us over the head with it?

P. S. I almost forgot to mention how much I loved seeing Don Knotts in this film! He's very funny, and let's hear it for the return of good old Mr. Furley. "Three's Company" was a stupid show that I watched in my youth, but I loved Mr. Furley! The best part of the show was when the rommies were having their (inevitable) Big Misunderstanding, and ol' Furley was listening at the door, going into mad convultions about it. Heh, heh! Ah, nostalgia.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
It's rare that a movie catches my attention the way "Pleasantville" did. That, or I was looking for something better having watched "The Waterboy" a few days earlier (cough).

I've heard much about the movie through advertisements on TV, and even a visit to the Pleasantville Web Site which features a newspaper that gradually transforms from black and white to color...much like the movie does. So I was definitely interested in seeing it when it came to a local budget theater (long story why I couldn't when it first came out). The wait was worth it.

David (Tobey Maguire) is a fanatic of a mythical town called "Pleasantville", portrayed in a 1950's sitcom, now relegated to reruns on a nick-at-nite style cable channel called "TV Time". He's excited at the fact that an all-nite marathon is being shown of these shows; He's also excited at the chance to win $1000 in a trivia contest later that night during the marathon. Enter Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) who wrestles with the remote just when the marathon begins. The remote flies out of their hands and breaks. Just then a TV repair guy (Don Knotts) shows up, and impressed by David's knowledge of Pleasantville, gives him a special remote. After leaving, the two kids are wrestling with it again when suddenly they push a button and find themselves transformed into the world of "Pleasantville".

David, fascinated by the show, recognizes several of the episodes and plays along with them. But Jennifer decides to take matters into her own hands and introduces individuals of the township to some more "colorful" alternatives. And thus begins a transformation that destabilizes the normal order of things.

At first I found the sudden appearance of the TV repair guy unbelievable in the story line, but later on in the movie it becomes more clear as to why. Aside from that, I found many of the visual effects to be outstanding. The fact that Pleasantville has received Oscar nominations for Art Direction and Costume Design would support that. (It also received a nomination for Best Dramatic Score.)

The movie also brings with it a couple of messages. Perhaps the most striking is the way the town handles the new situations it must now confront with the people who are now "different" than they are. It is much reminiscent of the segregation that was so prominent in the middle of this century...and still remains in different forms today.

Overall I found this to be an entertaining movie in more ways that one: In its visual potrayals, in the messages it delivered, and a few real good attempts at humor (I especially loved the scene involving a fire, and the only way to get the fire department out there was to yell "Cat!").

On my scale of 1 to 10, Pleasantville has earned a rarely given high grade in my book...a 9. If you don't get a chance to see it in the theaters during the next few weeks, I strongly suggest getting the video.

[--- Wait for Rental ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie was about some boy that did not have a father or confidence in himself and his sister that does not take the time to stop, look around, and learn about other things. The brother and sister want to watch 2 different things on TV and end up breaking the remote control.

Luckly, their guardian angle swings by the house disguised as a T.V. repair man with the Ultimate Remote to replace the remote that was on the floor in pieces. After the T.V. repair man leaves, they start fighting over the remote which takes them to the land of black and white where the boy learns confidence and the girl learns that there is more to life than what she thought.

Overall, it was a good movie but I would not pay full price. Wait until it gets to value, budget, or rental.

Jul 21, 2003
A "pleasant" change when many movies seem alike. The use of black & white as a character of the film was great.
Oct 12, 2003
\'Pleasantville\" is a movie about television sitcons of the 1950\'s and the reason why it changed along with the world. Toby Mcguire and Reese Witherspoon as two kids who went back to the 1950\'s sitcon \"Pleasantville\" and tried to the change the world thoufgh sitcon. People who believe them will turn from Black and White into color. As a result the town is divided between the colors and the black and whites. \"Pleasantville\" is more than a comedy, it\'s a fim about change whatever it came slowly or swiftly. The music score is beautiful and haunting. There are scenes where the kids of Pleasantville expericed things for the very first time. This is a movie about human emotions are confronted in a place that only existed on television. \"Pleasantville\" many be a comedy, but it carries a huge and powerful message about hope.
Jan 7, 2015
I love this film. The negative reviews here are surprising. They must have missed the point of the film. It's a film of self discovery and reflection. I always watch it if I find it on tele.

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