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Pretty Woman (15th Anniversary Special Edition) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Pretty Woman (15th Anniversary Special Edition)
Touchstone Pictures
distributor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: R
starring: Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Ralph Bellamy, Jason Alexander, Laura San Giacomo, Hector Elizondo, Alex Hyde-White, Amy Yasbeck
director: Garry Marshall
film release year: 1990
DVD release year: 2005
film rating: Four Stars
sound/picture rating: Three and a Half Stars
reviewed by: Bill Warren
When “Pretty Woman” was released 15 years ago, it instantly turned Julia Roberts from a promising newcomer to a full-fledged movie star—and she gives a full-fledged movie star performance here. It’s one of her funniest and most beguiling roles, lit up like a rocket by her incandescent, ten-million-dollar smile. It’s also a remarkably good performance; she’s usually at her best in romantic comedies like this, “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “Notting Hill” and the like. Her best work, in “Erin Brockovich,” doesn’t fit the mold, but then Roberts herself, like all true movie stars, doesn’t fit any mold: she made the mold.

And here she was greatly abetted by Richard Gere and director Garry Marshall—they all teamed up again for the lesser but still entertaining “Runaway Bride.” As Marshall points out in his funny, ingratiating commentary track, until this film it was more common for Gere to play someone who wanted to reach the social heights that he starts at in “Pretty Woman.” Marshall adds that by the time the movie came out, Gere’s star status had slipped a little; “Pretty Woman” restored it by broadening the groups to which he appealed. Marshall says the studio was flooded with fan mail for Gere from teenage girls. And no wonder: here he’s one of the great dream targets—a handsome, charming, immensely rich man who doesn’t know he needs someone to love.

At the time of the movie’s initial release, some griped that this story of a Hollywood Boulevard hooker (Roberts, of course) who ends up with this rich guy from the upper reaches of the class structure is a sheer Hollywood fantasy. Well, yes, that’s exactly what it is—and the movie announces itself as a Hollywood fantasy. In the opening scenes, one of those guys who wanders about Hollywood shouting his philosophy to passersby is seen as he cries out “Everyone comes to Hollywood got a dream. What’s your dream?” And at the end we see him again as Roberts and Gere get together on the fire escape of a seedy Hollywood hotel; the street guy again announces that Hollywood is the province of dreams. So the filmmakers—principally Marshall and screenwriter J.F. Lawton—are announcing their artifice. You can’t then blame them for not doing a realistic story.

And that’s fine. The story is very simple with only a cobweb of a plot; it’s not here to tell us things, to improve our lives—it’s out to entertain us, and for millions around the world, that’s exactly what it did, and still does. Watched today the movie seems as fresh, warm and sexy as it did fifteen years ago. (This DVD is the “15th Anniversary Edition.”)

Gere is squillionaire Edward Lewis, in Los Angeles with his shark-like attorney Philip Stuckey with the goal of taking over the aircraft company of elderly James Morse (Ralph Bellamy). Edward has made himself so rich by being one of those masters of corporate hostile takeovers. The plan is to force Morse (say that three times) into selling his company, then break it up and sell the pieces.

Edward is getting over a romance that failed; he knows why this keeps happening to him, but he’s not yet interested in doing better. He impulsively borrows Stuckey’s glitzy car and heads out into the streets of Los Angeles, totally unfamiliar to him.

In here somewhere, we meet Vivian (Roberts), a Hollywood hooker who shares a room with fellow hooker and friend Kit (a cheeky, funny Laura San Giacomo). Vivian’s annoyed that Kit’s spent up their rent money, forcing her to go back to the streets; she doesn’t like being a hooker, but she’s without other options. In a blonde pageboy wig and traditional Hollywood Hooker garb, she goes back to the Boulevard and soon meets Edward. He’s looking for directions, not sex, but Vivian offers to sell him directions and hops into the car.

And that’s about all the plot there is for most of the movie. Half of the movie is devoted to the Boy Meets Girl part of the classic equation. Edward is surprised to find Vivian intelligent, sharp-witted and imaginative; when they get to his Beverly Hills hotel, instead of sending her home on the bus, Edward invites her to his room—where they spend several days. At first it looks like they won’t have sex, but when Vivian is laughing at an “I Love Lucy” episode (the wine-stomping show; unbelievably, Vivian says she never saw it before), they finally get down to the deed, though everything is off screen. However, Vivian won’t kiss him on the lips; too intimate. A rule set up to soon be broken.

Most of the movie consists of Gere and Roberts talking to one another, and this is fine; they’re highly photogenic, they have instant and strong screen chemistry, and they are great talkers. Gradually, Edward’s defenses come down, and he grows increasingly fond of Vivian (who’s way ahead of him in the falling-in-love race), though he doesn’t quite know what to do about her. He does give her a wad of money and send her out to buy more presentable clothes so she can accompany him to a business dinner.

This leads to an interesting scene in which the staff of a ritzy Rodeo Drive clothing store send Vivian away—she’s just not the kind of customer they want to attract, or so they think. Back at the hotel, manager Barney Thompson (Marshall regular Hector Elizondo), who also quickly identified Vivian as not his kind of customer, quickly becomes fond of her, even developing a healthy respect for the person she is—both of these developments much to his surprise and against his will. Elizondo is superb in the role of this man who learns better.

Eventually, of course, there’s a big problem that arises primarily from Stuckey’s learning just what Edward’s new companion does for a living, and from Edward offering to set her up in a hotel as his mistress. But of course, it all ends happily on that fire escape in Hollywood.

There are some cheerful extras on this DVD, including a brief blooper reel that consists mostly of Roberts cracking up, which she does with enthusiasm and a lot of sexy charm. In one brief bit, she submerges herself under bubbles in a bathtub; everyone else leaves the stage (with the camera running) before she comes up. The usual sort of making-of is included, as well as a bit with Natalie Cole performing a song from the film. There’s a rather long and, unfortunately, tiresome “Live from the Wrap Party” segment, in which Gere plays the piano like a champ and Marshall whales away on a set of drums. There’s also a map of the city with clickable sites used for filming; these are breezily narrated by Marshall.

Marshall provides the most entertaining extra feature, a commentary track. He’s one of the great talkers of Hollywood, doesn’t sound at all like an actor, but like a regular person who happens to know all about the movie at hand. He tosses in anecdotes, points out locations, and so forth, the usual sort of director commentary, but it’s more entertaining and likeable simply because Marshall himself is so entertaining and likeable.

With all movie stars, you can usually identify the movie in which they went from whatever they were before to a major star; it’s rarely been clearer or so easy to identify than the ascent to stardom of Julia Roberts in this still funny, fresh and likeable comedy.

more details
sound format:
Dolby Digital 5.1
aspect ratio(s):
1.85:1 (enhanced for 16x9)
special features: Blooper reel, “Live from the Wrap Party,” “LA: The Pretty Woman Tour; 1990 making-of; Natalie Cole doing “Wild Women Do;” trailer; commentary track by director Garry Marshall
comments: email us here...
reference system
DVD player: Kenwood DV-403
receiver: Kenwood VR-407
main speakers: Paradigm Atom
center speaker: Paradigm CC-170
rear speakers: Paradigm ADP-70
subwoofer: Paradigm PDR-10
monitor: 36-inch Sony XBR

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