PRETTY WOMAN (1990)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 59 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Sexuality and some Language

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Directed by: Garry Marshall

Written by: J.F. Lawton

Starring: Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Ralph Bellamy, Hector Elizondo, Jason Alexander

PRETTY WOMAN is a movie that plays out exactly like you think it will from the get-go. It follows a typical rom-com formula, but also has its fair share of charm. It speaks volumes for a chick flick when I’m actually actively engaged in the characters and rooting for them to wind up together, even though I know where things will eventually end up. This movie is most definitely a product of its time (when the 80’s were trying to die and the 90’s were trying to have an identity), but also plays out like a modern take on old Hollywood romances. It’s clichéd as all get out, but PRETTY WOMAN is an essential date movie that entertained me in spite of some lesser plot points.

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Edward Lewis is a businessman who banks on exploiting failing companies. Vivian Ward is a hooker with a heart of gold. Through a twist of fate, the two cross paths and Edward hires her as a companion for a week of business meetings (posing as his girlfriend). It should also come as no surprise that these two anti-romantic people begin to fall for each other and helpful that the chemistry between the two of them is believable. Their different lifestyles cause difficulties to arise that complicates the possibility of a happily ever after in this scenario. Will this be a cityscape fairy tale come to life or a doomed romance? If you’re familiar with chick flicks at all, you already know the answer, but this movie is worth watching anyway.

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PRETTY WOMAN was intended to be a dark drama (not joking), but was turned into a romantic comedy. If it had been the brooding cautionary tale that it was originally conceived as, then it’s unlikely that the film would remain popular hit that it is today. The movie is charming and fun with a quirky sense of humor. Unlike many other rom-coms of a similar nature, the struggles that these two people go through as a possible couple feel genuine and made me worry for them. It’s weird to say that, seeing as we all know how these kind of tales play out and there’s something to be said a movie that does keep you wondering even if you already have a solid idea of where things are heading. Besides Richard Gere and Julia Roberts having aforementioned chemistry, the scene-stealer comes in Hector Elizondo as the hotel manager who offers some unexpected advice to the fish-out-of-water prostitute. It was also mighty strange to see Jason Alexander (a.k.a. George from SEINFIELD) as a scumbag, as the only other major role I’ve known him from was as a victim in the cheesy 80’s slasher THE BURNING.

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The running time of PRETTY WOMAN comes very close to wearing out its welcome though. The plot line of Gere’s actual business negotiations with a company owner come off as grating and the resolution of that plot thread is way too obvious. I understand that the idea of the business trip is what sets off the actual romance to begin with, but I wish this aspect had been a little more interesting and far less dull. There are also plenty of montages, lots of montages, that become an overused technique (one set is to the film’s title song, but all I could think of was the tuxedo scene from DUMB & DUMBER that deliberately spoofed that scene). Secondary characters (mainly seen in Julia Roberts’s hooker friend) are also bland. While Gere and Roberts work well together, the individual storylines are standard stuff. Notably, I find it a positive that the movie doesn’t focus on sexual acts, especially given that Julia Roberts plays a prostitute. It usually cuts right before a dirty deed is about to go down or merely implies it through a brief moment. PRETTY WOMAN is far from an explicit film. If it had been a sexually graphic affair, then the sweet nature could be killed right from the start.

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Though wholly predictable and cheesy, PRETTY WOMAN gets more qualities right than it gets wrong. This is praise for one might initially expect a bland same old affair from this being a by-the-numbers chick flick. Julia Roberts and Richard Gere have great chemistry together, but their individual plot threads are shaky at best. Some of the side characters are better than others. The kind hotel manager is the best part of the entire film, but there are lots of cute moments. This is the quintessential date movie that is made to lift you up and accomplishes that goal. Some flaws may bring everything down a notch, but PRETTY WOMAN still holds up after over two decades.

Grade: B-

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