A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events, and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets… only to fall in love.
Year 1, Day 354
BEFORE: Transitioning from Matt Damon to Julia Roberts, another classic, Pretty Woman hits the screens today. This is actually director Garry Marshall’s second film in this marathon, the first being Valentine’s Day (also with Roberts). That film had some inherent problems that were hard to get over but I’m confident in Marshall to deliver in a film that many others seem to like.
AFTER: Pretty Woman is pretty underwhelming. A few parts here and there are entertaining and I did laugh a few times throughout the film, but for the most part there’s nothing really to follow and it gets boring. It does illustrate an important idea in film that helps explain my reasoning behind what I like and dislike here.
This idea is that of development. Most films, or any stories in general, have some sort of action happening on screen. It doesn’t need to be a car chase or fist-fight, it could be something as simple a person deliberately lying to cause problems or holding down two jobs to help feed their children at night. The point is, that something happens, story-wise, that’s interesting enough to watch by itself and it’s something Pretty Woman doesn’t have. Edward Lewis’ (Richard Gere) deal with James Morse (Ralph Bellamy) is chump change; Lewis taking care of Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) and her doing the same doesn’t matter. For this film to run two hours long, none of these stories have anything that really happens. All of it is just boring middle-man stuff trying to serve the other half of the film.
And that other half of the film is character development and interaction. Most films retain interest with story, those that don’t rely on this second way: characters. Pretty Woman is about the characters. You have the main two: Edward who is a wealthy and lonely businessman and Vivian who is an independent prostitute. Two people on completely opposite sides of the social spectrum and yet they are quite similar and get along quite well. It’s not a film about prostitution. It’s film about helping others; it’s about love. And the film does a good job at establishing and developing these characters in a way that shows growth, a way that gives us a reason to watch. By the end, what happens is almost expected whereas in the beginning of the film it would have seemed ridiculous.
The problem with Pretty Woman isn’t that it lacks a good story where things happen. Instead it has great characters. But the reason I called this underwhelming is because, even though Gere and Roberts do a wonderful job at making us care for Edward and Vivian, it still feels empty. Like going from scene to scene waiting to see what’s happening to these people. If it’s not story, there has to be something really gripping about the interactions between everyone. Pretty Woman nails the long-game - the meaningful developments that take time to realize - but the short-game - the play-by-play of each scene - is almost nonexistent. If you watch this film, you will feel satisfied at the end, but while you’re watching it is a whole other story.
RATING: 3 out of 5