Friday, July 15, 2011

Pretty Woman (1990)

Pretty Awful


- Pretty Woman stars Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward who is, yes, you guessed it: a pretty woman - but she is also a hooker. And she is not just a hooker; Roberts' Vivian is one of the most watered down, Walt Disney-style hookers ever put on screen. After several years of walking the street working in the world's oldest profession, she tries to make a trick out of Edward Lewis (played stoically by Richard Gere), a depressed business man. After initially only needing Vivian to help him out with some directions - "no officer, really, I was just asking the hooker for directions!" - Edward finds Vivian too attractive to pass up and spends the night with her in his San Francisco penthouse. But the story continues as Edward finds her so intriguing that he hires her as his "beck and call girl" for the whole week, the entirety of his stay in San Francisco closing out a business deal.

Oh what a dream come true - nothing but shopping and sex and she gets paid for it all! But wait, the audience is lead to believe that Vivian learns a little bit about herself. Uh-oh. Is that an attempt at character development in a Julia Roberts romcom? It's a recipe for disaster....

And what a disaster it is! Because Edward is enchanted by Vivian, needs someone to accompany him to rich people events (fancy dinners and polo matches), and because he is a tortured soul - a ruthless businessman, dealing with issues with his recently deceased father, and recovering from a recent breakup stemming from the fact that he is always treating women as if they are eternally at his "beck and call" - he does not want to be left alone. And, oh man, is Richard Gere's Edward ever the perfect man; that is, to say.... completely unrealistic. Romcom lovers LOVE their men fairy-tale unrealistic and Edward could not fit the bill any better: he is a good-looking, sensitive guy who has cash coming out of his pores and can expel all of his faults (ruthless business tactics, fear of heights, misogyny) in the time it takes to write a check.

Of course the pathetic Edward character pales in comparison to the sheer awfulness of Julia Roberts' Vivian. The film sees her charming and "intriguing" her way into the hearts of just about everyone she meets and I cannot help but ask one question: why? I cannot be the only one who finds Julia Roberts absolutely irritating more often than not and she did not exactly win me over with her trademark goofy grin and simplistic free spirit mixed with the specific cheesy high-society hooker act of the Vivian character in this film. Maybe I missed something?

Anyway, Gere may be ripe for the romcom picking but Roberts has to fix him first. Of course, this requires an attempt at a complex relationship. One scene in particular sees Edward confiding to his lawyer that Vivian is a hooker - the then lawyer proceeds to then hit on Vivian and try to strike up a play date. Vivian then proceeds to get really mad at Edward exclaiming "I've never had anyone make me feel as cheap as you did today" to which Edward responds "Somehow, I find that very hard to believe." Listen Edward, I know that normally one would find that very hard to believe - as hookers have a hard, hard life (no pun intended) - but have you been watching the movie? Vivian is the lamest excuse for a Hollywood hooker that I have ever seen. Personally, I thought it was hilarious how Vivian talked up a tough life on the street yet does not have any scratches, bruises, or cigarette burns - I mean, talk about your cushy clientele - and never has to worry about threats from a pimp when she leaves the "service."

Don't worry, Edward and Vivian make up (duh) and all it took was Edward having to take responsibility for the whole thing even though Vivian is a hooker and should not be surprised when people walk up to her wanting a little something-something. Naturally, Vivian not only falls for Edward but discovers that she can be somebody who is more than a whore. This leaves their love story with Edward wanting to (um, gasp) keep Vivian on the "pay roll" cooped up in a condo to wait for him to come to San Francisco on business and Vivian wanting to get away from a life of prostitution, which means not being Edward's private whore.

So Vivian is back at her old place packing up to move away to "Get a job, finish high school; I got things I can do, I used to make pretty good grades in high school" - it doesn't matter because she found confidence in herself and is going to try to make it on her own. But wait, after an inevitably short time away from each other, Edward returns to claim his fairy tale princess by commanding her to come down from her apartment and join him in his limousine. Wow! One music montage is a pretty short time to stop being a misogynist and decide that settling down with Vivian is the best thing in the world. And what happened to Vivian's dreams of making something of herself? Now she is just back where she was - only not getting paid for it.

When all things are said and done, Pretty Woman finishes as the epitome of everything that is wrong with bad romantic comedies. Do I really have to explain any further?

CBC Rating: 3/10

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