08 May 2012

Pretty Woman (starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere)

Years ago someone suggested I might like the film 'Pretty Woman'. I didn't really know anything about it, but like Julia Roberts as an actress, and so it went on our wishlist. And sat on our unwatched-DVD-shelf for probably a couple of years before we decided to see it earlier this week.

What an incredible film it is! It's basically the story of a somewhat ruthless American millionaire  businessman who stops to ask for directions in a backstreet, and ends up paying for the services of a prostitute for a week. Which sounds extremely sordid.. but isn't. In fact it's rather less sordid than the 1960s film 'Never on Sunday', which is only rated PG in the UK, and not at all in the US.  By contrast, 'Pretty Woman', which likewise implies 'adult' content, is rated 15 in the UK and an even stricter R (18) in the US.  Yet there are no explicit scenes, no full-frontal nudity, almost no violence (certainly nothing gory), and surprisingly little bad language. Had we been the censors, we would have opted for '12' (or PG-13) on both.

As for the film itself - Richard Gere stars as the wealthy Edward, but was in my view one of the weaker characters. He's not bad - but his character didn't seem much different from that of the journalist in Runaway Bride.  He's quite likeable, but I never found him entirely believable either as a cutthroat businessman, or as someone likely to hire a prostitute - though he does express reservations for a while.

However,  Julia Roberts as Vivian is absolutely incredible. She totally makes this film, and apparently it's a significant role in terms of turning her into a star. I'm not surprised. When we first meet her on the streets, it was difficult even to recognise her.  Then the changes in her as she enjoys a life of luxury for a week are gradual but realistic.. and while the ending is perhaps a little surreal, it's eminently satisfying.

We thought that Hector Elizondo as the discreet hotel manager Barney was also excellent. His expressions were exactly right, his attitude to Vivien refreshing, and he was responsible for several lightly humorous moments in this film which we greatly appreciated.

I have to admit that it took me until the following morning to realise that the story is, essentially, that of Pygmalion - or the better-known 'My Fair Lady', set in 1990s Los Angeles... I assume that the title 'Pretty Lady', which out of context is rather feeble, was deliberately intended as a connection to the musical.

Overall, the pace is great, the story powerful and the directing works very well. I found this film totally engrossing once I got into it, and am only sorry we didn't see it sooner!

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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