Gere Gets Into Gear with a Hand from Roberts
I know I shouldn't like it, I'm a bloke, I like "Die Hard", "Commando" and any other number of macho action flicks but I can't deny it, I like "Pretty Woman". I know it's a girlie fairytale, a Cinderella story for a modern age and really is all a little fluffy and lightweight but it is what it is, fun, romantic escapism. Oh how it could have been so different if they stayed with the original darker storyline or chose one of the numerous other leading ladies such as Sharon Stone, Diane Lane or Molly Ringwald instead of Julia Roberts. But they didn't they chose Julia Roberts to star alongside Richard Gere, they turned the storyline from dark drama to lightweight romantic comedy and we basically got a prominent piece of cinema history which is still adored today over 20 years later.
Whilst in LA on business, millionaire Edward Lewis (Richard Gere - No Mercy) comes across hooker Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts - Steel Magnolias) and after they spend the night together he decides to hire her for the week, to keep him company and attend important functions. But whilst originally purely a business deal it soon becomes apparent that there is more to their friendship other than money which makes it difficult to say goodbye when the week is up. What also makes life difficult for them is Edward's lawyer who learns that the beautiful Vivian is a hooker and despises her for the way her friendship with Edward affects his business thinking.
I am not going to try and make out that the storyline to "Pretty Women" to be anymore than it is, a fluffy fairytale, a fantasy a piece of simple escapism but it works. From the amusing way Edward and Vivian meet, the proposition of staying for a week, the issues with the hotel manager and various other snooty people right through to the expected romantic climax it comes together to deliver an entertaining experience. It balances romance with comedy as well as a touch of drama so that you are charmed, amused and bordering on fascinated when it comes to Edward's cruel business streak. But it's not deep, there is no subtle message that it's trying to get across, it is a movie which works on face value only.
What though makes this fun bit of escapism a perennial favourite is that it is memorable, there are scenes, quotes, obviously songs and the star pairing which stay with you long after you've finished watching. You can't but help smile when Edward walks into the bathroom to discover Vivian singing "Kiss" in the bath, you feel for Vivian when the bitchy fashion assistant on Rodeo Drive dismisses her because of how she looks yet laugh when Edward comes to her rescue spending an indecent amount of money on her in a clothes shop the next day. And it's not just amusing, it's sexy as well, the seduction on the piano, the first kiss, the lingering looks between Vivian and Edward it all adds a simmering amount of romance to the story.
Though whilst these memorable scenes help "Pretty Woman" linger in your thoughts long after you've watched it, it is the perfect soundtrack which helps take it to the next level. When you hear the song "Oh, Pretty Woman" do you think Roy Orbison or do you think "Pretty Woman" the movie, most people who have seen the movie immediately remember the movie. It's not just Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman" which is memorable; the movie is filled with great songs from Prince's "Kiss", Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love" and "Real Wild Child" amongst many others.
But for many it is the pairing of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere which makes "Pretty Woman" so fantastic, well it must of worked they were reunited for the "Runaway Bride" a few years later. How it could have been different seeing both Al Pacino and Christopher Reeve was considered for the role of Edward Lewis and a long list of women including Kathleen Turner, Debra Winger, Jamie Lee Curtis and even Madonna were considered for the role of Vivian. But thankfully Julia Roberts and Richard Gere were chosen and it's their chemistry which makes it so wonderful. In the scene where Edward snaps down the jewellery case narrowly missing Vivian's fingers it was all spontaneous and it's that sense of naturalness, of trust and friendship which shows through in their performances and it makes this fairytale believable on a romantic level.
Aside from Julia Roberts and Richard Gere "Pretty Woman" also has it's fair share of solid supporting performances no more than the marvellous Hector Elizondo who plays hotel manager Barney Thompson who takes Vivian under his wings. And although he only has a small part Ralph Bellamy as James Morse showed his class in what was to sadly be his last movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Pretty Woman" is most definitely a lightweight piece of fairytale fluff, but it's an entertaining piece of fairytale fluff. From the wonderful casting of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere as Vivian and Edward, the mix of romance and comedy, the memorable scenes and quotes as well as the equally memorable soundtrack "Pretty Woman" works, it entertains, amuses and helps you escape into a fairytale fantasy world.