J.D. Lafrance
Pretty Woman: 15th Anniversary Special Edition DVD Review

Pretty Woman: 15th Anniversary Special Edition

February 2, 2006

Director: Garry Marshall,
Starring: Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Jason Alexander, Ralph Bellamy, Laura San Giacomo, Hector Elizondo, Amy Yasbeck, Hank Azaria, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

Pretty Woman (1990) is the film that transformed Julia Roberts into a superstar and made her America’s sweetheart, a mantle she took away from Meg Ryan who had held it a year earlier and would lose to Sandra Bullock a few years later. Considering the movie’s premise and the often puritanical attitude in the United States, it is something of a surprise that this movie was a huge hit.

Edward Lewis (Gere) is a serious billionaire who has trouble finding the right woman. So, he buys one – Vivian (Roberts), a downtown Los Angeles streetwalker. She’s having problems paying the rent because her roommate (San Giacomo) spent their money on drugs. Edward meets Vivian on the street. He’s lost, looking for directions to Beverly Hills and she agrees to show him for $20. He becomes smitten with her and invites the hooker up to his hotel room for the night. Edward has such a good time that he hires her for a week. Of course, he falls for her and her for him and decides to give her a Pygmalion-style makeover but conflict arises when her streetwise attitude clashes with his rich, upper crust society world and the film imparts on us a lesson about tolerance.

At the core of the movie is one of the oldest chestnuts in the world: a romance between two people from opposite sides of the track. They couldn’t be more different: he’s an uptight guy who doesn’t know how to have fun and she is a freewheeling, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of gal.

Pretty Woman manages to transform the world of prostitution into a cuddly sitcom complete with good-looking people with beautiful problems. Roberts is the cleanest looking, least convincing hooker in cinematic history but I suppose that this is merely in keeping with the film’s fairy tale vibe where realism is not a necessity. Even the back of the DVD case blurb perpetuates Pretty Woman’s sanitized fantasy when it describes Vivian as “a spirited, streetwise diamond in the rough.” Yeah, she’s really rough looking!

In many respects it is pretty easy to see how this movie launched Roberts’ career into the stratosphere. She has a winning smile, drop-dead gorgeous looks and a down-to-earth personality that is charming. However, the role requires very little in the way of acting and she didn’t prove that she had those kinds of chops until Erin Brockovich (1999).

The best thing about Pretty Woman is the presence of Garry Marshall regular Hector Elizondo (they’ve done a staggering 14 films together!) as the sympathetic manager of the hotel that Edward and Vivian are staying at. Elizondo brings a quiet, understated dignity to his role and has always been Marshall’s reliable character actor with memorable turns in The Flamingo Kid (1984) and The Princess Diaries (2001). There is a cute scene where Elizondo’s character teaches Vivian proper dinner etiquette that is a good lesson of less-is-more vs. Roberts’ shameless mugging for the camera.

Pretty Woman is a glossy endorsement for rampant materialism. Edward stays at the nicest hotel with the best champagne and drives an expensive sports car. Vivian’s shopping spree is basically an ad for Rodeo Drive as all the usual suspects are flashed before our eyes: Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and so on. What kind of message is this movie sending to women? All you need to do is find someone who is very rich to marry and life will be peachy keen. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hooker so long as you’ve got a killer body like Julia Roberts.

Special Features:

There is a “Blooper Reel,” a montage of blown lines and goofy moments as the cast ham it up and have fun on the set.

“Live from the Wrap Party” features footage of Gere on piano and Marshall on drums while Roberts sings a cover of Elvis Costello’s rendition of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”

On the “L.A.: The Pretty Woman Tour,” Marshall takes us on a guided tour of several of the locations in the movie and gives a brief history of each locale and what it was like to shoot there.

Marshall also contributes an audio commentary that comes off as rather simplistic at times, as if he’s explaining filmmaking to a child. He had Edward get dumped by his girlfriend at the beginning of the movie in order to make him more vulnerable so that the audience would care about this rich guy who has it all. Marshall is a Hollywood director and talks about how to make a movie for a mainstream audience – spell everything out. This is a fine track, I suppose, but nothing special.

“1990 Production Featurette” is your basic extended trailer with some soundbites from Marshall, Gere and Roberts.

Also included is a music video for “Wild Women Do” by Natalie Cole that was featured prominently in the film. It is a pretty standard movie tie-in video with lots of clips from the film.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 59%



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