PRETTY WOMAN (1990)
Pretty Woman is one of the most iconic American romantic comedies. starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, noted for its successful soundtrack featuring the song “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison, which inspired its title.
It shows a fragile love story surrounded by cynicism and compromise, with references to both “Cinderella” and “Pygmalion”.
The film focuses on a Hollywood hooker, Vivian Ward, who is hired by a wealthy businessman, Edward Lewis, to be his escort for some business and social functions over the course of a week.
It was originally intended to be a dark warning tale about class and sex work in Los Angeles, but then it was reconceived as a romantic comedy
Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) is a millionaire who buys companies, takes them apart and sells the pieces for more than he paid for the whole. He has just broken up with his girlfriend, who has refused to escort him during one of his business trips.
He borrows his lawyer’s luxury car, gets lost and stops along Hollywood Boulevard to ask for directions to a prostitute: Vivian (Julia Roberts). She offers to tell him, for five dollars, and for ten, she will guide him there. So, she gets in and it turns out that she knows a lot about cars. This intrigues him, and when they arrive at the Beverly Hills Regent Hotel, where he is staying, he asks her to stay for the night and then to play the role his girlfriend has refused. He offers her 3000 dollars to stay with him for the next six days and a new, more acceptable wardrobe.
After calling her room-mate Kit to leave her some money for their rent, she happily goes shopping on Rodeo Drive, but some snobbish saleswomen refuse to serve her since she is still dressed like a prostitute.
Coming back to the hotel, she is stopped by the hotel manager who wants to make it clear that they are making an exception having her at the hotel as Edward is a special guest. Then he takes a liking to his best customer’s “niece”, so he helps her buy the right outfit for dinner and also coaches her on table manners and dining etiquette.
The next day, after hearing her troubles with shopping, Edward accompanies her to a shop, and invites her to spend a lot of money on clothes. After buying lots of new and elegant outfits, which transform her into lady, Vivian revisits the store that initially refused her, to show them the big mistake they made!
Back at hotel, she looks like a genuine guest, and Edward is visibly moved by her transformation, and begins seeing her in a different light. He also starts to open up to her, revealing his personal and business life.
When he takes Vivian to a polo match sponsored by his company, he is approached by his friend and lawyer Philip who suspects she is a spy. Edward reassures him by telling him how they really met and later Philip provokes Vivian, asking for her services after Edward leaves.
She feels insulted, and furious with Edward for revealing their secret, so she decides to end the arrangement. Edward apologizes and persuades her to stay. The next day he takes Vivian, who is wearing a stunning red dress and an expensive necklace that he got on loan, to see La Traviata in San Francisco in his private jet. Vivian is moved to tears by the story of the prostitute who falls in love with a rich man.
On returning to the hotel, they make love as partners, rather than client and hooker. They have fallen into a particularly romantic kind of love, a love based on staying awake after the lights are out and confiding personal secrets.
When Edward offers to put her up in an apartment to get her off the streets and to continue seeing her, she refuses, saying this is not the “fairy tale” she dreamed of as a child, in which a knight on a white horse rescues her.
Meanwhile, Edward is attempting to take over a corporation run by an aging millionaire, a man whose lifework he is prepared to savage, even though he actually likes him. But during his final meeting with the old tycoon he changes his mind at the last minute. The time spent with Vivian has shown him another way of being, working and looking at life.
Phillip is furious at losing so much money, so he goes to the hotel to confront Edward. He finds only Vivian, so he blames her for changing Edward and tries to rape her. Edward arrives just in time and throws him out of the room.
With his business in L.A. complete, Edward asks Vivian to stay one more night with him, for free, just because she wants to, but she refuses and leaves, and decides to go back home to San Francisco to finish high school.
While going to the airport, Edward rethinks his life and asks the hotel chauffeur to drive to Vivian’s block of flats.
She has packed her bag and is ready to go home, when she hears a car horn out of her window. She looks down and sees Edward standing out of the white limo’s sun roof, holding flowers and proclaiming his love for “Princess Vivian.” He has arrived to “rescue her”, an urban visual metaphor for the knight on a white horse of her dreams and, even though he is scared of heights, he climbs the fire escape to get to her.
The film ends with Edward’s question: “So what happened after he climbed up the tower and rescued her?” and the famous last line from Vivian: “She rescues him right back.”