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Monday, February 20, 2012

Pretty Woman, The Kind I'd Like To Meet

Sometimes I find it hard to get invested in certain genres of movies.
Certainly everybody in the world has their own tastes as to what they prefer to watch when it comes to movies.  There are some who like the action movies where as many as a hundred objects explode into pieces.  There are some people who enjoy watching a scary horror film, which gets better as the body count rises in gruesome fashion.  And, there’s some people who really enjoy foreign films from France, or Japanese anime, or Bollywood musicals.

However, one genre of film that I haven’t had too much love for is the genre known as romantic comedy. 

Or, perhaps if you are of the male species, you might refer to them as “chick flicks”.

I have nothing personal against romantic comedies in general.  A lot of romantic comedies have modest budgets and can attract some of the biggest Hollywood stars.  There certainly is an audience for these types of films, and depending on who stars in the film, and how well the movie is written, they almost always perform well at the box office.
For the most part, however, romantic comedies bore me to tears.

I don’t know whether it has to do with the fact that I was born male, or whether I’m still single, or whether I just dislike most films that Katherine Heigl is the main star (which happens to be true, but that’s a whole different story).  For the most part, romantic comedies do nothing for me.  I’m almost positive that I slept through the iconic “I’ll have what she’s having” scene in the film ‘When Harry Met Sally’.  That’s how much romantic comedies bore me.
Well, most of the time anyway.

Today I’ll be featuring a movie that could be classified as a romantic comedy.  And it’s a movie that I don’t actually mind all that much. 
The first time I think I watched this movie was probably when I was in the television lounge of my residence hall.  It was a Saturday night, and most of the people who lived on my floor were either at the on-campus bars or at the off-campus dance clubs.  But, I stayed behind at rez, because I wasn’t into the partying scene back in those days.  I’m STILL not a fan of partying and binge drinking, but that’s irrelevant to the current story.

Anyway, I happened to wander into the television lounge where a group of girls were popping some popcorn in the microwave, and they announced that they were watching a movie, and asked if I wanted to watch it with them.  When they first told me the title of the movie, I initially cringed, because I knew it was a romantic comedy.  It was a huge movie when my sister was in her senior year of high school, so I knew about it.  But, since there wasn’t a whole lot else to do, I bit my tongue, and sat on one of the chairs in the lounge to watch the movie.

The movie was the 1990 romantic comedy “Pretty Woman”, a movie starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.
And, you know, I’ll be completely honest.  Within the first twenty minutes or so, I was just as glued to the television as all the ladies that were in the lounge at the time.  By the end of the movie, I was telling myself “you know, for a romantic comedy, that movie wasn’t half bad.”

Of course, part of the reason why my interest was piqued was due to the successful soundtrack that accompanied the movie.  With songs such as this one...

...and this one...

...appearing on the movie’s soundtrack, it certainly got my attention.  Both of these songs that I posted are songs that I consider to be favourites of mine, and yet, I had no idea that either one appeared in “Pretty Woman” until I heard them in the movie.
Of course, the music was only part of the fun of “Pretty Woman”.  I think part of the reason why I found some merit in this movie was because of the message that it displayed throughout the film.  I’ll get to that a little later.

“Pretty Woman” was released in theatres on March 23, 1990, and was directed by Garry Marshall.  Initially, the movie was to have premiered in 1989, and was originally a lot darker in tone.  The original vision of “Pretty Woman” was to portray a gritty, dark portrayal of the prostitution industry in the heart of New York City.  Initially, the characters of Vivian (Roberts) and Edward (Gere) was to be a lot more controversial, and Vivian was supposed to be highly addicted to drugs.  But when the original idea was pitched to Jeffrey Katzenberg (then the head of Disney Studios, he wanted the project to lose some of its grittiness and hardness.  It was his suggestion to have the movie rewritten as a romantic comedy, where instead of the movie being a dark drama, it took on the appearance of a modern day fairy tale.

TRIVIA:  Other actresses that were considered for the role of Vivian included Nancy Allen, Winona Ryder, Molly Ringwald, Jennifer Connelly, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Steenbergen, Daryl Hannah, Valeria Golino, and Michelle Pfeiffer.
As it turned out, Katzenberg’s suggestion probably made the final product more successful than the original idea might have been, as the movie was one of the Top 10 movies of 1990.  The setting was changed from New York City to Los Angeles, California.  And, while the character of Vivian was cleaned up a little, many of Vivian’s old characteristics were used to form the personality of Vivian’s friend Kit (played by Laura San Giacomo).

TRIVIA:  The original title of the script was $3,000.  It was rejected as a title by executives at Touchstone Pictures (the company that produced the film), as they believed it to be more suitable for a science-fiction movie.  Though, the original title is linked to an event that happens in the movie.

The movie begins with Vivian Ward working on Hollywood Boulevard, looking for her next big score.  What Vivian wasn’t expecting was that she would come face to face with a gold mine.
Wealthy and ambitious businessman Edward Lewis ends up taking a wrong turn, and comes face to face with Vivian.  Having gotten lost, he tries to get directions from Vivian to get to his destination.  Vivian agrees to help him out.  The following morning, Edward decides to put Vivian to work...though, not in the way that you might think.  He decides to hire her for the week as his own personal escort for social events and functions.  Of course, the tough as nails Vivian is no amateur.  She definitely had her price, and she fully expected Edward to come through.

So, Edward hands Vivian $3,000 (now you see where the original script title came from), and grants her access to all of his credit cards.  The main reason was likely for Vivian to come across as a presentable escort for Edward (because let’s face it, halter tops and fishnet stockings probably wouldn’t work for a black-tie event), but at least this way, Edward made good on his promise to compensate Vivian handsomely for going along with the plan.
The course of trying to change from prostitute to fairy tale princess certainly wasn’t easy for Vivian.  It was already a precarious position for Vivian to take the only world she’d ever known and reject it for a week to live the high life.  Imagine having to go through that when everyone else on the outside is judging you negatively.  Poor Vivian had to endure such judgmental behaviour, courtesy of some snotty Rodeo Drive salesladies who immediately pooh-poohed poor Vivian.  They judged her on her looks right from the start, and Vivian was left humiliated as a result. 

Luckily, there was one person who managed to see through Vivian’s hard exterior to notice the soft, warm heart beating inside, although at first he was just as disdainful as the stuck-up retail clerks on Rodeo Drive.

But, somehow, hotel manager Barnard Thompson (Hector Elizondo) begins to feel sorry for her, and he takes it upon himself to teach Vivian some lessons in proper etiquette.  He even helps Vivian buy a brand new dress, which immediately gets nothing but positive comments on the part of Edward, when Vivian becomes his date for a business dinner with James Morse (Ralph Bellamy).  

Unfortunately, the warm fuzzies end there.  When Edward announces his plans to dismantle Morse’s entire corporation after purchasing it - effectively closing up the shipyard that Morse spent four decades building – it angers Morse and his grandson, and the dinner busts up with hurt feelings all around.

The following morning, Edward begins to prove that he actually sees Vivian as more than just an escort.  When Vivian tells Edward of how nasty the Rodeo Drive salespeople snubbed her, he takes Vivian on a shopping spree where she puts her ‘haters’ in their place.  The following day, Edward and Vivian attend a polo match, where Edward plans on doing some networking for his business deal.  Vivian meets up with James Morse’s grandson, David, and the two seem to strike up a friendship.  Meanwhile, Edward is telling his attorney, Phillip Stuckey (Jason Alexander) how he ended up meeting Vivian, and sleazy Stuckey actually has the gall to approach Vivian to tell her that he would hire her once Edward was done with her.

Classy guy, that Stuckey.
And, naturally, Vivian is very hurt and angry at Edward for even telling Stuckey about her.  She threatens to leave him, but Edward coaxes her into seeing out the week.  Sure enough, as part of his apology, he skips out of work early to take Vivian on his private jet to San Francisco, for a performance of ‘La traviata’.  It is a performance that visibly moves Vivian emotionally.  And, when you consider that the main plot of ‘La traviata’ deals with a rich man falling in love with a courtesan, well, you can see why she’d like it so much.

But, here’s where the story gets complicated.  Vivian is so moved by Edward’s kindness and generosity towards her that she starts to develop feelings for him.  She wants nothing more than to be with him for the rest of her life.  But, when Edward suggests putting her in her own apartment so he can continue seeing her, she realizes that she doesn’t want her fairy tale to end this way.  She wanted more.  And, you know something?  She deserved it.
And, then there’s the business deal that Edward agonized over.  The only choice that was being presented to him by Stuckey was to purchase Morse’s business and sell it off for real estate purposes.  But was there a way that Edward could still make a killing financially while saving Morse’s business?  And, how will Stuckey react to the decision that Edward makes, and will Edward see Stuckey’s true colours before it is too late?

The most important question to be answered...will Vivian and Edward find a way to be together?
You’ll just have to watch the movie yourself to find out. 

But you know, the reason that I wanted to talk about this movie was to illustrate a couple of points.
Firstly, a movie that is referred to as a “chick flick” doesn’t necessarily have to be solely a film that only women can enjoy.  I think I’ve proven that the right “chick flick” can appeal to all audiences. 

And “Pretty Woman” did that for me.  It really had two characters that you really wanted to root for because both of them were missing something.  For Vivian, she really wanted to be loved and respected for who she was on the inside, and not because she gave it away for the right price.  She had a heart and a brain underneath her rough exterior.  All she needed was for someone to help her find a way to show it off.  To the outside world, she may have been damaged goods, but with a little bit of attention, care, and positive reinforcement, she really found a way to shine.
Edward was also someone you really found a way to empathize with.  Sure, at the beginning of the film, he was portrayed as a ruthless businessman.  But, the closer he got to Vivian, the more he took down the wall he built around himself.  He allowed himself to have fun, take more chances, and show more empathy.  Basically, Vivian helped Edward become a better person. 

“Pretty Woman” has often been referred to as a modern-day Cinderella story.  I don’t necessarily agree with that comparison.  But, it comes close.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post! This is one of my favorite movies. I use movies to escape, so I tend to gravitate towards movies in this genre. Chemistry means everything though and these two really had it. It makes all the difference.