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Friday, 8 March 2019

Retro Review: Pretty Woman (1990)

Pretty Woman
Cast: Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Jason Alexander, Hector Elizondo, Laura San Giacomo
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $463 million 

Plot: A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events, and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets.... only to fall in love 

'Hooker, Line & Sinker, This So-Called Modern Day Fairy Tale Is Problematic'

This film, in 2019, and almost 30 (crikey) years old as I type this, is so problematic, it makes me sad that audiences and film fans think that Pretty Woman is Julia Roberts's best and most famous movie and role, - because it is not. That accolade belongs to Erin Brockovich: a film that showed Roberts as her most capable, defining and spell-bounding, performance and character-wise. Erin Brockovich may be feisty but she takes no crap from no one, and certainly, she wouldn't have fallen for a guy in Edward. Revisiting this (overrated) effort from Julia Roberts's 40+ year career, despite her amicable turn, the idea, the plot, the arrogant, aloof rich guy sleeping with a prostitute thing wouldn't and doesn't wash well with many people today. 

Edward is a corporate guy who wears sharp suits, drives a car and he picks up a hooker from the street named Vivian, who wears a fake wig and looking glamourous (but then this is Julia Roberts we are talking about). & after hooking up together, they fall in love. And if there wasn't more to this story that would anger people, it's that Edward opens up the film dumping his girlfriend by phone. 

The script was originally going to be darker with the role of Vivian going to Diane Lane, but when Julia Roberts was cast, it was retooled into a glitzy, shallow, Hollywood commercial rom-com. Other actresses in the frame included Michelle Pfieffer, who turned down the role as she didn't like the script's tone, whilst Julia Roberts' co-star in Steel Magnolias, Daryl Hannah believed the role was degrading to women. Yet being a sex worker, and apparently, the writers didn't bother researching it properly, the film's idea of prostitution and making it less gritty and glamourous, like there is nothing wrong with it, is just so backwards. Prostitution is not something that should be embraced-, it is dehumanising, degrading and I feel sorry for those who get caught up in it, as they choose to expose their bodies for money, not love. 

Whilst Edward is aloof and in most cases, shameless, the down-on-her-luck Vivian, herself is often detached and naive, although she is a hooker with a heart which is firmly in the right place. 

Julia does well with a somewhat poorly characterised role, no thanks to the writers; of course, not a lot of people like her or are a fan of hers for whatever reason, especially when it comes to the choice of films she aligns herself with. She's like Robin Williams: when it's a good or great film with a character that has depth, personality and focus is not placed on what they look like, physically but more on their acting abilities which they bring out, that is a good thing. Think The Pelican Brief, Steel Magnolias, Erin Brockovich, where Julia Roberts bagged an Oscar. Pretty Woman, however, and in stark contrast, ceases to be meaningful and is superficial, shallow, and unrealistic. Whereas Richard Gere is just, well there: he, as ever, doesn't emote much - or at all, who doesn't deliver an emphatic performance. Not one scene he was in did he try to push himself as an actor and his turn just didn't blow me away. Though ask yourself: if prince not- so- charming Edward wasn't loaded and affluent and he was just your average Joe, would he still fall for and care for Vivian? Most likely, no. 

It starts off slow, only to lose its sense of what message it should send out, which in this case, is not a very creditable one and becomes a rhythm-less and insipid affair. 

Pretty Woman is not that Pretty, but it is not as heinous as the rancid and sad trash that is Eat Pray Love (and still my most loathed film of Julia's). Julia Roberts is pretty, but this film isn't, rather more misogynistic. Despite being opposites, what Vivian and Edward share together is not a connection, well, definitely not a passionate one anyway, and neither is it romantic. What is served here is a kids fantasy with adult situations thrown in; that buying someone's love, as opposed to actually earning it not through monetary terms is the real offender, as well as being the major issue people have with this film, and one the defenders of Pretty Woman would denounce. None of it is real, most of what happens would never happen in real-life with these types of people existing, anyway. There is nothing wrong with portraying fantasy or real-life... but when you depict a so-called real-life situation as dark, adult-like and heavily serious as prostitution as a Disney Cinderella fairy tale, doubts need to be cast and raised. 

If it went down the serial drama path, it would have been far more Oscar-worthy. 


Pros +

- Julia Roberts looks terrific here & she does her best 

- The movie's soundtrack including Roxette's 'It Must've Been Love' and Go West's 'King of Wishful Thinking'

Cons -

- Film's intentions have dated and aged badly 

- Richard Gere and his character, Edward doesn't make strides to change much for the greater good

- Poorly characterised roles for Vivian and Edward 

- A misogynistic & shallow modern-day fairy tale

Final Verdict: 

To note also, as an R-rated and 15 rated adult romance, Pretty Woman is also explicitly bereft of sexual and erotic scenes. Besides those issues, the film's story itself is lacklustre that doesn't pop, along with an ending one can smell from a mile away.

At least one other thing that doesn't blow, is that as well as Julia Roberts's turn, the soundtrack delivers -, unlike this movie. 

The film could have been salvaged in the end with Vivian finding her independence, but it can't hide the fact that Pretty Woman is ruined by terrible misogyny and as a whole, it all smacks as being terribly fake and cheesy.  


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