|PRETTY WOMAN (1990)|
Laura San Giacomo
|"I appreciate this whole seduction thing you've got going on here, but let me give you a tip: I'm a sure thing."|
|Time: 119 mins.|
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (Roberts).
Being a Julia Roberts fan, this was one of my favorite movies when it was first released. Granted it's total hogwash of the first order prostitute finds love with millionaire but I found, like the rest of America, that I just couldn't resist Julia. The original script was a much darker love story about the same subject, probably closer to LEAVING LAS VEGAS, but once Roberts was cast as the lovable hooker, Disney cleaned up the film, making it a romantic comedy.
Julia's just too innately classy to be convincing as a common street walker. I think she would have been able to play the darker character, but nobody wants to see her like that. She received an Oscar nomination for this role, which is somewhat unbelievable, however, she makes Richard Gere appear sexy, so I guess she deserves something for the effort. I'm not sure why this film was so successful except to hazard a guess that it touches secret desires for both men and women that if a man were to pick up a hooker she'd be as lovely and personable as Julia and if a woman were to be rescued she'd want him to be as attractive and rich as Gere (even though he has the personality of a cardboard box).
Now I know there are a lot of people out there who detest Julia Roberts as an actress. I can even understand why. She's chosen rather fluffy roles in her career which most people think are not very hard to pull off. I disagree. Even though she really hasn't tackled many dark roles (besides MARY REILLY and you don't want to go there), there is an innate intelligence behind those big eyes and wide smile. I can't imagine anyone out there who would have been able to pull off the hooker with a heart of gold role better. I'm not saying it's a great part, but she must have done something right since it catapulted her into super stardom...and it wasn't due to the film's brilliant writing.
If you're going to watch this film, you have to throw all ideas of the real world right out the window from the very beginning. Julia Roberts, or any woman who looks like her, would not be selling her body on the Sunset Strip for any amount of money no matter how bad her financial situation. In any case, her character Vivian, is solicited by a very rich man played by Richard Gere for an evening of physical pleasure. She turns out to be so entrancing that he hires her for the week to be his companion for $3000. Again there's no way a rich business man would take a hooker, no matter how beautiful, to business dinners and polo, but this is the movies.
The film cuts back and forth between Gere's business dealings, where he's a mean, hard-nosed, corporate raider and his time spent with Vivian, which shows his softer-side. The "comedy" comes into play when she tries to fit into his upscale world. Her attire and demeanor are not exactly lady-like, but with a lot of cash and some quick lessons, she's able to clean up and physically fit in. He, of course, falls for her because she's a smart, honest, decent person, who happens to be a beautiful woman who's giving him sex whenever he wants...even though he's paying for it. The film makes the point, several times, of portraying her as a person with no other options when it came to her present employment.
It seems somewhat condescending to force feed the audience this type of rhetoric since most woman aren't rushing out to be hookers. Not exactly the job you dream about in high school. The problem she has with his life is that she doesn't like the rich people he hangs out with, who are shown to have less class and decency than she does. That part of the film was fairly believable. What I can't understand is why she would fall for him, except to say that he's probably the best guy she's ever come across in her life. I personally don't find Gere to be very attractive, but to each his own. In this film, the money helps. Plus, she gets to save him i.e. "change him", which is the secret project of half the female population when it comes to their man.
PRETTY WOMAN is the ultimate wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance and though it gets a little rough in spots he tells his friends she's a hooker, she gets slapped around this is pretty light fare. The road to love has almost never been so easy. In the end, they wind up changing each other he becomes a builder instead of a destroyer of companies and she rediscovers her self-worth. The film implies that they're going to go their separate ways, but you'd have to be stupid to believe that's how this story ends.
Being ten years older than I was when I first viewed this movie, I find that it's far more trite and silly than I first thought. Julia is still luminous and the best part of the film, which drags horrible when she's not onscreen. Gere annoys me even more. If you blink, you'll miss his transformation from ruthless business man to sincere boyfriend. He plays his role the same all the way through. Blah. It's no wonder he had to pay a hooker to keep him company. I still find Hector Elizondo's performance funny and endearing, though Jason Alexander's gets more irritating with every viewing. I guess he's supposed to be, but that doesn't help.
The film is greatly helped by the soundtrack and the costume design. Her outfits seem somewhat dated, but she still looks fabulous in them and the idea of being able to shop with someone else's millions is still extremely appealing. This film is flawed from beginning to end, yet I'm still drawn to watch it whenever it comes on TV. I guess I'm just as much a sucker for the rescue story as the next gal. If you've never seen this movie and are looking for a little romance, this is a decent way to pass the time. It is after all the movie that launched Julia's career and it's worth watching her performance. I find NOTTING HILL to be a better showcase of her talent as an actress and comedienne, but that's me. It's still outside the realm of reality, but at least it could happen.