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USA 1990
Directed by
Garry Marshall
119 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman was one of the most commercially successful films of the 1980s and its easy to see why. It’s old school Hollywood escapism that had it been made in the 1930s would have starred Clark Gable and Jean Arthur or Claudette Colbert.

In 1990 it was Richard Gere as a ruthless corporate raider and Juliet Roberts as a streetwalker who he bumps into on Hollywood Boulevard and charmed by her artless ways takes her back to his penthouse at a swank hotel. He ends up hiring her for $3000 for a week to accompany him to business dinners etcetera, etcetera and, of course, the inevitable happens.

Part "Cinderella", part "Pygmalion" the film might have been called “What Women Want”  as Richard Gere’s Edward Lewis is rich, powerful and handsome but there’s plenty for the guys, that being that Edward Lewis is rich, powerful and handsome and Julia Roberts' Vivian is a whore. So it could have been called “What Men And Women Want”, but essentially it’s a chick-flick – there’s lots of shopping, limousines, expensive restaurants, a trip in a private jet to the opera, which, of course, Vivian adores  (the opera they see is  'La Traviata', which is about a prostitute who falls in love with a wealthy man), and to top it off a fairytale ending. Sheesh!!

The myth is that the original script by J.F.Lawton, entitled “Three Thousand”, was much darker.  In it Vivian being a dope head at the film’s end returns to the streets.But then she takes her bestie and fellow hooker, Kit (Laura San Giacomo) to Disneyland so, no it wasn't really "dark".  Given the film’s enormous commercial success (made for $25 million it raked in $350m in its first year of theatrical sales alone) it would be churlish to complain about the changes.

Gere is suitably dashing and debonair and Roberts, then a relatively small potato who took the role after many better known actresses including Sandra Bullock and Meg Ryan turned it down, is both a pretty woman (yes, they dish up that song) and engaging even if her tendency at times to play her character like a 16 year old is a bit too much. Garry Marshall, who unsurprisingly had extensive experience in television, including Happy Days and Mork and Mindy, devises the whole thing to press all the right buttons.

A pre-Seinfeld Jason Alexander and Giacomo act as foils to the main characters and Hector Elizondo provides a winning touch in the form of a classically discreet hotel manager and for what it is, Pretty Woman is quite enjoyable.




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