|DVD Romantic Comedy|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 20 February 2001|
Popular lore has it that 'Pretty Woman' is the movie to show if you have an at-home date with a heterosexual female in the 18-20 age range. Like all generalizations, this may not hold up in every circumstance, but one shouldn't underestimate the appeal of a movie that is, at heart, 'My Fair Lady' in a hipper, sexier guise.
A romantic comedy in which a rich corporate raider/hero (Richard Gere) pays a Hollywood Boulevard hooker/heroine (Julia Roberts) $3,000 to be his companion for the week has the potential to be excruciatingly offensive. Yet, somehow director Garry Marshall and writer J.F. Lawton avoid the pitfalls of their premise and have crafted a buoyant, frothy fairytale.
While people have fond memories of specifics like the sex-atop-a-grand-piano scene in Chapter 10 and the fashion shopping excursion in Chapter 11; 'Pretty Woman' succeeds as well as it does largely because, without putting it into so many words, the film notes that a man who sees sex as a buyable commodity may be in worse personal shape than a woman who sells her body.
Naturally, Roberts' bubbly prostitute rescues Gere's businessman from his muted melancholy, just as he saves her from the streets before it's all over. Roberts seems too healthy, emotionally and physically, to be entirely convincing as this kind of working girl, but she radiates charm and looks just a bit like the young Audrey Hepburn (inviting further 'My Fair Lady' comparisons). Here, she and Gere achieve a chemistry of wary sweetness between them, and Gere is believable as someone who fears his own passions. We also get a pre-'Seinfeld' Jason Alexander as the smiling scumbag yuppie villain.
The 'Pretty Woman' DVD is the director's cut, with some previously deleted footage reinstated. The pre-opening note that the film has been 'edited for content' is an eyebrow-raiser, but unless the viewer has seen the film since its 1990 theatrical release, it's hard to say whether the changes make much difference in its overall impact. Director Marshall's commentary on the bonus audio track contains some nice illustrations of how small details can affect the overall feel of a movie, right down to exactly when a click should occur in a phone call.
For young ladies whose fondest desire is to be the only maiden in the land to melt the heart of the ice prince and to be able to purchase clothes with unlimited funds, 'Pretty Woman' is probably movie heaven. For most of the rest of us, it's an agreeable if not especially memorable diversion.