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Film Review: Pretty Woman
In 1990 Garry Marshall released Pretty Woman, the title of which was taken from the 1964 song, “Oh, Pretty Woman” sung by Roy Orbison. Starring Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Ralph Bellamy, Jason Alexander, Laura San Giacomo, Alex Hyde-White, Amy Yasbeck, Hector Elizondo and Judith Baldwin, the film grossed $464.4 million at the Box Office. Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical, and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, the BAFTA Awards for Best Actress, Best Costume Design, Best Film, and Best Screenplay, Original, the Cesar Award for Best Foreign Film, the David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress, and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, the film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical, the BMI Film & TV Awards for Film Music and Most Performed Song from a Film, the German Golden Screen Awards from 1990 and 1991, the Jupiter Award for Best International Actress, the People's Choice Awards for Favorite Comedy Motion Picture, and the Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Movie Actress.
When Edward Lewis takes a wrong turn on Hollywood Boulevard, he tries to ask for directions from a prostitute named Vivian Ward, who mistakes him for a possible client. But when he hires her to spend the night with him in his hotel’s penthouse for $300, Edward comes to trust Vivian and hires her to stay with him for a week as an escort.
A film where the popularity is entirely justified, Pretty Woman is not only funny, but a film worth watching. Though it's a formulaic romantic comedy, what the film really thrives on is its characters and how they grow. On one hand, there’s Edward, who is essentially a rich idiot living an unfulfilled life. A corporate businessman, he not only finds that the corporate world is soulless and shallow, but it’s apparent that his personality shows that he really doesn’t belong in it. For instance, he can’t drive a fancy car like a Lotus Esprit because he can’t drive stick and even though he’s afraid of heights, he still gets the penthouse and opera balcony seats because it’s the best and he needs to keep up appearances.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s Vivian. Like Edward, the film gives her a pretty unfortunate beginning but it’s different as she has to avoid her landlord and needs to find a new guy quickly as her roommate spent all the rent money on drugs. And the drugs said roommate bought were from a creepy guy who wants to be her new pimp a little too much. Further, she finds that another prostitute she knew was murdered, seeing her corpse being taken out of a dumpster. It’s interesting that two people with unfulfilling lives will not only meet but be changed.
Understanding Edward’s character development comes with understanding the character of his lawyer, Phillip. Characterized by nothing but pure greed and motivated by only wanting to move forward business deals where he comes out ahead after cutting up companies that merge with Edward, he is who Edward was on the verge of becoming had he not met Vivian. She changes his outlook on life by essentially forcing him to take pleasure in the little things that he had been missing, such as walking in the grass barefoot. Vivian also helps him learn how to trust as he doesn’t completely trust her in the beginning, thinking that she’s abusing cocaine instead of flossing. As the film progresses, she keeps surprising him.
As for Vivian, her outlook is totally flipped as well as she believes that there’s nothing more for her in her life other than turning tricks. Even with telling Edward about the princess fantasy she once had, she tells him that hearing demeaning things all her life eventually leads to the person hearing them coming to believe him. However, in getting to know Vivian, Edward finds that she is has quite a bit of intelligence and kindness. As she helps him discover the little things in life, he helps her discover the good things about her.
Now, as said above, plots like this where the rich idiot meets the simple girl who doesn’t think much of herself and the two of them change each other’s outlooks have been done countless times before, especially when the female part of the equation happens to be a prostitute. However it’s really the acting and chemistry that Roberts and Gere have with each other along that really make the film what it is. The plot may have been done to death, but even countlessly reused stories can be fun when they’re made with good characters and enjoyable acting.
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