Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
If ever there was a star making role it is Julia Roberts, as Vivian, in Pretty Woman. The movie hinges entirely on her charm. How successful would a movie named "Pretty" Woman be if audiences did not find the lead actress attractive? This was not Roberts' first movie but it is the one where everyone stood up and took notice.
After borrowing his lawyer's sports car, Industrialist Edward Lewis happens across a prostitute, whom he asks for directions to his hotel. The hooker, Vivian, accompanies Edward to his hotel and ends up accepting a deal to spend the week with him as his "beck-n-call girl." They appear to be opposites, so they obviously are attracted to each other. Actually, they are very similar people. Edward's job is legal but a bit under handed. Or as Edward puts it, "You and I are such similar creatures Vivian. We both screw people for money."
Much of what's good about Pretty Woman is that both leads are charming yet very flawed. Edward is rich yet cold and distant from everyone and every thing in his life. As the movie opens, his current girlfriend is leaving him because he is never around. Vivian is a whore with a heart of gold. She is also as insecure as they come. She gives him the humanity he lacks and he gives her the self esteem she needs.
Another great thing about Pretty Woman is that it treats both leads as if they have brains, and in doing so does not insult the audience's intelligence, as so many brainless romantic comedies tend to. When Vivian gets all dressed up, the movie does not romanticize it. She admits, "It's easy to clean up when you have money." When they first meet, Vivian tells Edward that her rate is $100 an hour. Edward catches on to her lie quite easily. "You make $100 an hour and you have a safety pin holding your boot up?"
Pretty Woman is a classic romantic comedy. From Julia reaching between Gere's legs and saying, "No, but it has potential." To Gere snapping the jewelry box on Julia's hand and getting a huge reaction, this movie is full of memorable scenes. Of course the biggest one is when Julia is dressed up, walking down Rodeo Drive, getting stared at by everyone passing by as the title song plays.
Julia Roberts as the least convincing hooker ever.
Julia Roberts charm has always been lost on me. I don't find her physically attractive and I think she's over rated as an actress. I enjoy this movie somewhat in spite of her and not because of her.
The biggest problem with this movie (and yes, I know it's a fantasy) is that Julia plays the least convincing streetwalker in the history of Hollywood. Laura San Giacamo, who plays her friend Kit, I would believe as a hooker, but Roberts' Vivian has never turned a trick in her life. She's the Walt Disney version of a prostitute; despite screwing anyone with $20, she manages to be clean, pretty, innocent, wide-eyed and somehow embarrassed for someone to see her floss her teeth.
This was the first time I had watched this movie in many, many years and one thing that struck me as kind of funny is that when I first saw it back when it was released I thought that Richard Gere was looking old. Watching it now I was struck by how young he looked! But then, it's almost 20 years since this movie came out, which just boggles my mind!
Despite my dislike of Julia Roberts there are some good things in this movie. Some genuinely funny moments; the scene where Edward takes Vivian shopping and tells the shop owner that they're going to need a lot more sucking up, leaps up to mind.
Another thing I enjoyed was the soundtrack. I had forgotten which songs were in this movie, but as soon they kicked in I found myself singing along with several of them, particularly, "It Must Have Been Love".
This was the movie that made Julia Roberts a star. It's also the movie that made me realize that I didn't like her very much.
Gere and Roberts make a pretty couple.
I have to agree with Scott that Julia Roberts is the least convincing prostitute in screen history. That part of the movie makes no sense. If they wanted to leave the character as portrayed then they should have shown her as an innocent young woman who through some unfortunate twist of fate had very recently found herself in a situation where she needed to turn tricks to survive. That would explain her pristine appearance and attitude. Or they should have dirtied her up a bit more and had her do more of an Eliza Doolittle transformation. But hell, this is a Walt Disney romantic comedy so it isn’t surprising they chose to go this route. And since this was such a huge box office hit maybe they were right and Scott and I are just being critics for critics sake.
That said I must disagree with Scott about Julia Roberts appeal. She is one of the most original and photogenic stars to come along in the last quarter century. She can handle comedy and drama equally well and I find her to be beautiful, and don’t get me started on that megawatt smile. She also possesses that indefinable quality that makes you want to root for her. The best thing about this movie is the way in which her Cinderella fantasy unfolds. We are along for the ride and experience everything right along with her.
The chemistry between her and Richard Gere is easy and charming. They bring out the best in each other. And as mentioned above the songs are great and have a nostalgia about them that has only gotten better with time. If you can get past Roberts’ squeaky clean call girl you will definitely like this fantasy romance.
Photos © Copyright Touchstone Pictures (1990)