Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley
Pretty Woman - 4 Stars (Excellent)
"Pretty Woman" was originally scripted as a dark drama about prostitution in Los Angeles, but thankfully movie producer Laura Ziskin said "No" and what started out as a very brooding, negative film turned into one of the most popular and financially successful romantic comedies of all time. Find out why.
With a production cost of $14 million and a worldwide gross of $464 million, Laura Ziskin had to be smiling all of the way to the bank.
Pretty Woman's title character, Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), is a down-on-her-luck prostitute who is hired by Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), a wealthy businessman and corporate raider, as arm candy for several business functions.
The arrangement works well but begins to get complicated when Edward discovers Vivian is not just a hooker from Hollywood Boulevard but also a woman of substance, and Vivian finds herself falling in love in a situation that essentially has no future.
There is nothing positive about the common perception of a hooker, but Vivian smashes through the normal perceptions by quickly getting viewers past her obvious good looks and revealing her inner beauty, transparent feelings and uncompromising commitment by not settling for a comfortable, Edward-financed lifestyle as arm candy and companion.
Her willingness to walk away from the fee arrangement for her gig ultimately gets Edward's attention, and a Hollywood story line takes over. Vivian becomes so likeable we want to cheer for her as she stands her ground and forces Edward to make a decision. Both Vivian and Edward experience some serious personal growth that moviegoers can relate to and appreciate.
The story line reminds me of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, which became the basis for the Broadway musical "My Fair Lady" with Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, a poor flower girl who morphs into a beautiful princess. The character of Vivian also reminds me of Audrey Hepburn's role as Holly Golightly, another lady of the night in "Breakfast at Tiffany's".
Director Garry Marshall completely avoids negatives in this film by wisely handling Vivian's role, and playing the characters around her like a concert master fine tuning an orchestra. His work went a long way in helping Pretty Woman win a Golden Globe for Best Picture. Richard Gere picked up a Golden Globe for Best Actor, and Hector Elizondo won a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe as the hotel manager Barney Thompson.
The shining star in Pretty Woman was Julia Roberts. She was a relative unknown at the time, and walked away with a Golden Globe as Best Actress and an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress.
Pretty Woman, released in 1990, was notable for the number of leading ladies who turned down the role of Vivian, including Molly Ringwald, Meg Ryan, Michelle Pfeiffer and Daryl Hannah. Julia Roberts really won the role by default, but she made the most of her opportunity and the movie quickly made her Hollywood's newest sweetheart, a role she held for nearly 15 years.
Al Pacino also turned down the role of Edward Lewis, leaving the door open for Richard Gere.
Here is some key trivia in the movie:
1) The opera in San Francisco that Edward flies Vivian to in a private jet is "La Traviata", the tale of a Parisian courtesan who falls in love with a wealthy young man.
2) Richard Gere actually plays the piano himself in a late night scene, he even composed the music that he plays.
3) The sports car Edward borrows at the beginning of the movie is a Lotus Esprit. Ferrari and Porsche turned down the advertising opportunity because they did not want to be associated with soliciting prostitutes. Lotus won big time as its Esprit sales tripled during the next year.
The film also benefited from its title and association to "Oh, Pretty Woman", Roy Orbison's worldwide hit recorded 26 years earlier.
I really liked Pretty Woman and not just because of Julia Roberts' jump-off-the-screen attractiveness, especially after Edward escorts Vivian to Rodeo Drive for a shopping spree, proving that clothes can complete even a very attractive woman. Even more important is her courage, determination, substance and dignity under stress.
If you like relationship movies and romantic comedies, Pretty Woman is a must see.
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Ed Bagley's Blog Publishes Original Articles with Analysis and Commentary on 5 Subjects: Sports, Movie Reviews, Lessons in Life, Jobs and Careers, and Internet Marketing. My intention is to inform, educate, delight and motivate you the reader. Read my reviews on "Ghost", "Million Dollar Baby", "Passion of the Christ" and "National Treasure".
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