Pretty Woman - In Defence of Pretty Woman
| Garry Marshall’s huge hit, Pretty Woman is one of the more maligned popular films out there. With the Special Edition DVD coming out this year I thought it would be a good opportunity to, with great embarrassment, defend this early 90s classic.
Okay, I know and admit that the film soft peddles the issue of prostitution somewhat. However I vehemently reject the idea that it glamorizes the world’s oldest profession. I will speak more on this later. Also, I admit that Pretty Woman unleashed Julia Roberts on an ignorant film going public and for that there can be no apology.
The film is fairy tale, Cinderella, Pygmalion. The film is pure Hollywood magic. It literally admits as much from the beginning. The first line in the film is:
“Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don't; but keep on dreamin'. This is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin'.”
There is not even the pretence of reality. This is Hollywood romantic comedy at its best, up there with the classics. No reason to believe in what you see before you… unless you really want to believe.
Do we want to believe that no matter where we come from we can find love and riches? Why not? Do we really want to believe that we aren’t the sum of the situations that have occurred to us but what we can make of ourselves when the opportunity arises? Certainly.
I think a big part of the negative reaction to Pretty Woman is those who don’t want to admit good things can happen. I worry that often the criticism comes from those who don’t want to believe in fairytale and don’t want to allow others to believe. It doesn’t fit with their post-modern, cynical sensibilities.
Much of the criticism comes from the belief that Pretty Woman supposedly promotes the idea that a woman needs a man to “rescue” her. While I can see why someone might think this on first blush, anyone who has thought about it for half a second can see the movie bends itself into knots showing that the real individual rescued during the course of the narrative of Pretty Woman is Richard Gere’s character. Only those who feel that money is the answer to all your problems would be able to argue otherwise. All Vivian gets in the end, besides her self esteem, is money.
This brings us back to the prostitution issue. Never once is the job portrayed as anything even remotely pleasant. Never once is the job portrayed as ever leading to anything positive. What happens to Vivian is not perceived as the norm but the ideal. Do Cinderella or My Fair Lady make us believe that cleaning fireplaces or selling roses in the street lead to a life of riches? Certainly not. It’s ridiculous to suggest that Pretty Woman does.
One has to admit that the film does two things very well; romance and comedy. The funny thing is, that’s exactly what it sets out to do. The movie is damn funny - the Rodeo Drive scene is classic - and it does tug at the old heart strings - the opera scene, anyone?
Pretty Woman doesn’t loose much after time. It holds up well although it is a bit jarring to George Castanza being such an ass. I hate to admit it, as earnest romantic comedies are not usually my scene, but I do enjoy revisiting this film from time to time.
There are always going to be those who want to pick on extremely popular films. I guess it makes them feel avant-garde or something. Fortunately, for the rest of us, we can enjoy Pretty Woman and ignore their bitterness.