Sunday, April 20, 2014

31. Pretty Woman (1990)

Code-name: Rodeo Dr.

Director: Garry Marshall

Vivian Ward- Julia Roberts
Edward Lewis- Richard Gere
Concierge Barney Thompson- Hector Elizondo
Kit- Laura San Giacomo
Philip Stuckey- Jason Alexander

Notable Awards & Nomination:
nomination- OSCAR- Best Actress- Julia Roberts
Golden Globe- Best Actress (Comedy/Musical)- Julia Roberts
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Picture (Comedy/Musical0
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Actor (Comedy/Musical)- Richard Gere
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Supporting Actor- Hector Elizondo


I don't remember how this movie came into my life, but as I'd gotten older, more bits and pieces made sense to me. I've found more to love about it.

I think my extra dose of love came for it after Prince came into my life.
And there was that scene where Julia Roberts was singing along to "Kiss" in her bubble bath.

Richard Gere walks in on her and what follows is my favorite quote in the entire movie:

Vivian: don't you just love Prince?
Edward: more than life itself

That was so me in 2007 :-P and much of 2008.
Definitely appreciate them name-dropping him because he rarely gets his due. Certainly not in a positive way. The fact that "Kiss" isn't on the movie's soundtrack doesn't do him any favors either... but considering how he is about censorship, I understand.

This particular slot in my countdown could have easily have been taken by "Dirty Dancing." Both are romantic movies from the 80's... well, "Pretty Woman" felt like an 80's movie made in 1990 and "Dirty Dancing" is an 80's movie that takes place in the 60's.
"Pretty Woman" got the slot in my countdown because I'd seen it more often recently and I have one or two nitpicks with "Dirty Dancing". mainly, I kinda hate how dated the music sounds :-P although I am a sucker for "The Time of Life," "She's like the Wind' and "Hungry Eyes"... "Hungry Eyes" especially

Interesting enough, "Pretty Woman" went through quite a few changes from conception to production. It didn't even have that title. It gained this title because of the Roy Orbison song in the soundtrack. [The video for it was on a VHS tape that included dozens of MTV videos from the 80's... which is probably why I thought this was an 80's movie]
And supposedly the original script involved Vivian being a drug addict.

With the latest story I'm working on writing, now I'm kinda curious what that would have been like. But I understand why they changed their mind about it. They wanted Vivian to be a sympathetic character and the extra twists that come in relating to her addiction would have made the plot convoluted and her not someone you'd root for to get a happy ending.

For those who don't know... and seriously, who doesn't...

"Pretty Woman" could be interpreted as a modern twist on "My Fairy Lady" where a rich man takes under his wing a woman from the wrong side of the tracks, helps her become a lady and unexpectedly falls in love with her.
Although that's a bit of a stretch with all the extra twists and turns, and it's not as if Edward grooms Vivian to become a lady. He only takes her to a few fancy functions as his designated arm candy, making himself look better in front of his clients and co-workers.

Edward meets Vivian one night when he's driving home in a Lotus belonging to a friend of his. As rich as he is, he doesn't know how to drive a stick and Vivian offers to give him a hand. He's so taken with her that he gives her an offer she can't refuse.
[Yep, I'm quoting "The Godfather" here. Got a problem with that?]

The Cast

The offer: $3000 to spend a week with him, helping him keep up appearances, accompany him to functions, etc, etc.
The way girls were so love with Richard Gere in those days, so many would have gotten in line for such an opportunity. Heck, they would do it for free :-P
Kind of an odd thing to bring up, but one of those people might have been my professor in my US-China Relations college course. She said she liked him until he became an activist supporting Tibet.

I hadn't seen any of his other work (unless you count "Hachi: A Dog's Tale," where he dies and his dog tragically goes to the train station every day, waiting for him to come home... I only saw a short portion of the 2nd half of it and I still got emotional)
but Edward Lewis is the end-all be-all for him. Nothing else will probably be good enough for me coming from him :-P
I do have my curiosities about "American Gigalo," specifically because of the Blondie song that plays in the opening credits. But the last time a song moved to look for an obscure 80's movie, it didn't go well...

Everyone knows Julia Robert as one of the girls worthy of the title "America's Sweetheart,' and this was the movie that put her on the map. So many girls auditioned for this role. A bunch of guys auditioned for the lead as well. One was Burt Reynolds, who acknowledged that it was a huge mistake turning it down.

I believe this was also the movie that put Garry Marshall on the map. He's a director behind a bunch of my favorite rom-com's, particularly "The Princess Diaries" and "Valentine's Day"... both included frequent collaborator, Hector Elizondo.
To me, he'll always be Joe ("The Princess Diaries") but he played a great part as the hotel concierge, once he got that Vivian was an important guest. Still can't get over seeing him with hair. He'd been close to bald for as long as I'd known him. A comforting presence on set for sure.

One honorable mention I should make: this was Ralph Bellamy's last film. He played someone that Edward did business with and he walked away from their dinner meeting because he didn't like where he was going with his business.
Ralph Bellamy was one of the brothers in "Trading Places," which I discussed much earlier in my countdown.

And considering what a pervert he is in this particular role, I'm surprised I'm still able to watch Jason Alexander play George Costanza on "Seinfeld" reruns. Maybe the fact he has glasses in "Seinfeld" helps me distinguish the two.

The Story

The part that everyone remembers from this movie takes place on Rodeo Drive.
In "Romy & Michelle," the movie begins with them watching this scene and making fun of it.

First with the sales girls turning her away and the sad music's playing in the background.
"Like they're not bigger whores than she is"
then later on Michelle gets emotional and says "I'm sorry, I'm just so happy when they let her shop."

So sure. We're meant to care about Vivian because she's underprivileged and in a new, unfamiliar world, so it's sad when those girls are such bitches to her because of how she looks.
Luckily, Edward is sympathetic after she tells her that they were mean to her and gives her a credit card, which people on Rodeo love.
Leading the biggest payoff, which Julia Roberts brought up in a post-credits scene of "Valentine's Day".

"Big mistake, big, huge."

Edward's a bit of a complex, mysterious sort of character. I believe he described himself as a businessman who buys up other business and sells them in pieces. He doesn't really allow himself to get close to anyone, so it's an enigmatic riddle why he wants Vivian's companionship for this week. Some of it is selfish, making himself look good for other people, but some of it might also be wish fulfillment. Wanting to allow himself to get close to a person, but without the promise it'll go beyond this week. After all, she's just a prostitute, right?

The biggest criticism this film has gotten was the "hooker with a heart of gold" theme. People don't find that very realistic. It's never really explained why Vivian and her friend/roommate Kit are in the business. All we have to go is that they didn't go to college and couldn't afford to do much else in their end of Los Angeles.
As the movie goes on and Kit learns about what Vivian lucked into, she decides to make some changes in her own life too.
Given the difficulties that go with the territory, Vivian isn't the most damaged prostitute we'd  ever seen on film or TV. The only tell-tale scene of her difficult life comes from one quote where she says she doesn't kiss because it's too personal and she's like a robot when she goes to sleep with somebody.

But it is just so much fun seeing her getting all these perks, the beautiful clothes and the dinners... again, spending time with Richard Gere. I don't particularly care for the scene with them in the bathtub together (not sure why, maybe because I know of other actors I'd rather see topless... or I'm just a fricking prude :-P). I do love the scene where she goes downstairs to find him playing the piano (playing his own composition, amazing enough) and it gets pretty intimate after a while. That I can sink my teeth into.

Things go great for a while until the polo match where Edward winds up telling Stuckey the truth about Vivian. Because he was all paranoid that she was a spy for competition, being that he's his uptight attorney and all.
The obvious result is that he starts hitting on her and she lets Edward have it when they get back.

"I've never had anyone make me feel as cheap as you did today"

Reading through the script, it sounds like Vivian became a prostitute through Kit. After not getting along with her mom growing up, not being able to pay rent doing fast food and parking garages, she met Kit and got into the business because she made it seem like it was something good to get into.
Now that's a big mistake right there.

After Edward lets a big business deal fall through, Stuckey takes it out on Vivian in what almost becomes a very disturbing, traumatic rape scene.
Luckily, Edward showed up just in time to pull him off her and gave him a great right hook to the jaw. Cannot help but tighten up whenever the scene comes along because it's hard to watch, even when you know it's going to be all right.

Then somehow, against all odds, Edward goes after Vivian and gives her a Cinderella ending. Even overcoming his fear of heights to climb up her balcony to ask her to come back.

Edward: So what happened after he climbed up the tower and rescued her?
Vivian: She rescues him right back.
Yeah, having Richard Gere come and rescue you, the damsel in the distress, that's a dream many a girl had back in the day.
If I had this movie on my radar "back in the day," that'd be me as well. He's great in this one instance, but I can think of a couple other names I would put in his place. Not because I have anything against him. I just happen to know them a bit better because I have more than one role to go on.

Next Week

Hopefully I'll get the next entry out soon.

Going back in time with a slightly older film, another rom-com, but it's in black & white. And it features a very well-known and beloved actress- in the only movie I ever saw her in, but I'm still planning to work on that.

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