1990’s Pretty Woman might seem an odd film for me to enjoy given the genre of film that I’ve tended write about in recent weeks. But if the nineties action movie was generally the staple of my teenage movie diet, I did occasionally sample other delights and I did really like Pretty Woman when it came out.
That said, my reasons for rewatching it recently were more as a direct result of revisiting a small screen classic of the era. Mrs Proclaims and I spent much of 2017 watching the entire nine seasons of Seinfeld, which, with the exception of Jerry’s hairstyle in the earlier seasons, has stood the test of time rather well (perhaps better than some of the subsequent sitcoms it clearly inspired). As much as Seinfeld is an ensemble piece, and all four leads contribute to it, both Mrs Proclaims and I are in agreement that George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, is the standout character.
Which reminded me that the only other thing I’d ever seen Jason Alexander in was Pretty Woman. Plus Mrs Proclaims hadn’t ever seen Pretty Woman before, which seemed like an oversight because it is totally the kind of film she would like.
So, when it was broadcast on terrestrial TV recently, we felt obliged to watch it.
And I have to say it was every bit as good as I remembered it being.
There are some troubling elements to overcome, it is essentially a film about an unscrupulous businessman paying for the services of a sex worker and that doesn’t necessarily seem like the basis for a romantic comedy. And the briefest of internet research indicates that it was intended to be a much darker film at the outset but was reimagined as the Pygmalianesque tale that it ultimately became. Obviously, in order to appreciate the sanitized feel-good movie that it definitely is, you do need to turn of your inner cynic and just go with the flow. But once disbelief is fully suspended, it really is hard to find much to not like about the movie. The afore-mentioned Jason Alexander is excellent as the loathsome lawyer Stuckey, Hector Elizondo is charming as the sympathetic hotel manager Barney and Laura San Giocomo is suitably kooky as Kit ‘the best friend’. As for the two leads, Richard Gere is perfectly adequate as Edward, the ruthless businessman who ultimately re-thinks his life for the better, but this movie belongs to Julia Roberts, who charms from the moment she arrives on screen and renders the character of Vivian entirely sympathetic.
As previously mentioned, there isn’t much about the plot that is plausible, and even the darker elements that remain in the script seem to be momentary blips that are easily overcome rather than the horrific life-changing and traumatic events that they would actually be in real life, but it doesn’t matter. The movie is a fairy-tale at heart, in spite of the adult themes, and is best enjoyed as pure escapism.
Pretty Woman set the standard for the nineties romcom, a standard few others measure up to. Whereas I’ll more than happily sit through a nineties action movie of dubious quality, I’d struggle to get all the way through a bad romcom, so the fact that I’ve seen Pretty Woman multiple times is probably the highest endorsement that I can give it.