Monday, 27 February 2012
Pretty Woman (1990) dir. Garry Marshall
Starring: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Hector Elizondo, Jason Alexander
By Alan Bacchus
Has there ever been a more glamourized movie about prostitution? Garry Marshall's rom com classic about a hooker with a heart of gold who falls in love with a luxorious millionaire birthed the enormous career of Julia Roberts and perfectly represents her working class spriteliness.
Pretty Woman was made in 1990 and reflects the tale end of the finance-sharking 1980s. It’s really just another retelling of the classic rags-to-riches story. Whether it’s Cinderella, Pygmalian, My Fair Lady and even The Elephant Man, it’s a universal story that seems adaptable in almost any medium - poor lower-class woman is plucked from obscurity and thrown into upper-class society. That’s what happens to Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), a Los Angeles hooker with integrity who’s broke and risking eviction. Like a knight in shining armour, corporate raider millionaire Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) drives down Hollywood Blvd. looking for directions. He picks up Vivian and instantly takes a liking to her. But he's not hot for sex. For some reason he wants to bring her back to his hotel and chat. He’s so smitten with the Julia Roberts spunkiness, he pays her to be his companion for the week.
While Vivian is flush with the royal treatment, new outfits, trips to the country club and the opera, her innate goodwill causes Edward to change his ruthless business ways for the better.
Stucky, Edward’s lawyer, is dramatized with maximum sliminess. There’s no disguising him as the antagonist. Jason Alexander’s short, bald, desperate persona is a perfect physical fit. And subtle visual cues, such as his allergies to the outdoors and sunlight at the polo match, as well as his emasculating miniature pool table in his office, further castrate his character.
Pretty Woman is almost as famous for its continuity errors. In fact, I had to study the errors as an exercise at film school, specifically the infamous breakfast scene, which is rife with mistakes. But the fact that this film can get away with these errors is a testament to its immersive storytelling.
In perhaps the grossest example of double-dipping, director Garry Marshall would essentially remake his own film with 2001’s The Princess Diaries, cast Hector Elizondo in the same role and even reuse some of the same dialogue.
Pretty Woman still holds up as a minor classic in the genre. Richard Gere and Julia Roberts best all of the syrupy romantic clichés – many of which were popularized by this film.
Pretty Woman is available on Blu-ray from Walt Disney Home Entertainment.