The next big title that I come to in the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book as I return to the Romance and Melodrama section is this rom-com drama from 1990, Pretty Woman. Outside of a pretty solid soundtrack of hits this movie, honestly, never did much for me.
The film stars Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, in what could be argued was her breakout role. Gere is Edward Lewis a successful and wealthy businessman, who needs some company for social events. Apparently he doesn’t have any female friends, and we learn he never provided enough attention to the relationships he did have. So after a chance encounter, he hires a hooker, Vivian Ward (Roberts) to be his arm candy for the week.
He just didn’t count on falling in love with her.
It’s an updated spin on the Cinderella story, and it glosses over a lot of the darker side of the sex industry to give us a superficial look at wealth, the ability to purchase whatever we want to make us happy, and a prostitute with a heart of gold.
There’s no deeper meaning to this movie, it could be argued as a modern fairy tale, but without the moral, and the more I watched it, the less I was sure either of these characters were worthy of redemption.
Yes, through the course of the film, Vivian is accosted about her past, especially by Edward’s partner, Stuckey (a vile turn by Jason Alexander) but Edward will save her before the film’s end by riding in on his limousine and taking her away from all the terrible things in her life and shower her with money and gifts as tokens of his love and affection.
I didn’t quite believe, even at the time, how the movie was so successful, and what about it appealed to the viewers who watched it. It’s a simple enough story, and yes, perhaps the two characters find love together, but everything is just made so glossy and shiny. Not all of it is pretty, but even the glimpses into Vivian’s life aren’t nearly as dark as they should have been.
Instead it plays as a light-hearted film that doesn’t have a real message, and is quite content to be a sappy, money and love will solve everything kind of film. I don’t think I’m necessarily cynical about this one, it’s just it never really appealed.
I’m sure I’ve offended a few people who absolutely adore this film, but it just doesn’t work for me. Add that to the fact that I’ve never really been a Gere or a Roberts fan, and I am quite happy just to walk away from this one and call it even.