REVIEW: Pretty Woman

When I first saw Pretty Woman as a young teen I felt the need to downplay just how much I enjoyed it.  For a boy, it didn't seem like this was the type of movie you should publicly admit to liking.  It didn't have guns, there was no car chase, and it lacked any cyborg from the future trying to kill Sarah Conner.  It was about love, romance, and melting the heart.  Definitely not what a young man should like.

But the fact was that I did like it, and I liked it quite a lot.  Rewatching the film for a Valentine's Day episode for the podcast reaffirmed all of the reasons why Pretty Woman had tickled my fancy two decades ago.  The film is far from realistic, deciding to take a fairy tale look at prostitution and lacking any of the darkness that ensconces the profession.  And yet, it still works.

Julia Roberts plays Vivian, a prostitute in Hollywood who comes across Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) who needs help finding his way to his hotel.  One thing leads to another, and Edward ends up hiring Vivian for her services for the night.  Being a stranger in the city with a big business deal looming over him (which for some reason would go easier if he had a lady companion with him), he offers to pay her three thousand dollars for her to spend the week with him and attend various business stuff.  There's a lot of business stuff to attend.

 Lewis' job is to acquire companies, cut them up into pieces and then sell them off.  He is good at his job, and does it without without caring that his actions destroy the hopes and dreams of those whose companies he takes.  A business man with a heart of stone.  Vivian has a heart of gold, of course, and through the film she softens the hardened Edward Lewis.  In the end, the fairy tale ends exactly how we would anticipate.

The base element of the film is a high class individual who ends up falling for someone who is well below their standing.  This concept has been done time and time again, but Pretty Woman stands out as one of the best examples, and a film that greatly inspired many similar films to this day.  

Rewatching it, it was returning to an old friend and reminiscing over fond memories of the past.  Many classic scenes are found within Pretty Woman, and seeing them confirmed that it wasn't rosey nostalgia that made me remember them with favour, but because they were well executed and fit with the story.

The driving force of the film is Roberts' performance.  When she was cast for the role, she was barely known.  What she does in Pretty Woman is show why she would become such a force in the movie industry.  Her performance is captivating and allows the viewer to accept the idea of a fairy tale surrounding prostitution, which in its barest form is laughable.  She is what allows director Garry Marshall to pull it off so effectively.

The supporting cast is terrific as well.  Jason Alexander plays Phillip Stuckey, Edward's lawyer, and comes across very natural in being slimy when needed.  Hector Elizondo plays Barney Thompson, the manager of the hotel who transitions between pretty much hating Vivian to being a champion of hers.  The arc of his character could have easily been muddled, but Elizondo makes it work.  Larry Miller only has one scene in the film as a salesperson in a high end clothing store, and he throws his all into it.

No matter how well anyone else does in the film, it is the Julia Roberts show.  Richard Gere works great here, but without the spark from Roberts this would just be another comedy, and perhaps one that we couldn't take seriously because of the over simplified view it takes on prostitution.  Pretty Woman is everything I remembered it being, and I am no longer ashamed to admit it.

Rating - 3.5 out of 4 stars