25 Years On: Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman is 25 years old today, and we all still adore it. I personally watched the film for the first time when I came to university before Christmas, and I wondered… why the hell have I been avoiding it all these years? It’s iconic, and there’s a reason for that; there’s a reason it’s stood the test of time. I decided to gather a few girlfriends and a bottle of Cava, and re-watch the film in honour of its milestone. Really, it’s the best way of watching a film about female empowerment and finding love.

For those who haven’t seen Pretty Woman (shame on you, it’s amazing), here’s a synopsis. Julia Roberts plays a character called Vivian who is a prostitute, but she’s different to most prostitutes, and wants to escape. Vivian meets Edward, played by Richard Gere, a wealthy businessman who has little time for love. Edward hires Vivian to play his girlfriend for his stay in Hollywood, and the film follows this week and their developing relationship as Vivian becomes accustomed to his way of life.

Pretty Woman is often labelled as a chick-flick, a title I think is unfair because it means a lot of men and the snobby ‘indie’ types turn their noses up at it. But it wasn’t initially meant to be a rom-com; it was intended to be a dark tale of prostitution and class in the USA. I think it lost some (or quite a lot) of that along the way, and instead, prostitution is somewhat trivialised and class is made much easier for the likes of us to understand. Maybe if it had been a bit more ‘art-house’ and starring Marion Cotillard people wouldn’t reject it so easily.

The thing about reviewing a film that is turning 25 years old is that you get bombarded with loads of lists telling you ‘things you never knew about Pretty Woman!’ This is fun and interesting to read, but can take away from the film sometimes. The fact that’s always stuck with me is that Richard Gere and Julia Roberts apparently hated each other, and he said he would never work with her again. This fact has only served to make me even more in awe of their fantastic chemistry and acting in the film. There is not a moment when I saw their chemistry falter and that’s a true testament to their acting skills. Julia Roberts even got an Oscar nomination for the role. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t read about their relationship because I watch them and constantly try and catch them out. Don’t. Just take in the film and enjoy it rather than holding all these facts in your head.

My own interest in the film is largely because of the message it sends. No one criticises her for being a prostitute: it’s her own choice and Edward respects that. But it’s honest about the downsides of that kind of life and that no other prostitute is likely to find an Edward Lewis with three grand to spend on her. But ultimately, it is an empowering film for women. She rejects his offer to be his woman-on-the-side in an apartment he bought for her: she chooses education and her own life. Vivian is not one to settle and neither should any other woman. For me, it’s refreshing and Pretty Woman laid down the law for the rom-coms that followed it. So while I see the critics who say it trivialises prostitution and money’s ability to control people, I choose to see the good because I, amongst the masses, enjoyed the film and always will.



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