"Look. They won't let her shop."
I often title these reviews with a quote from the film I find ironic, amusing, or somehow appropriate. This time, I've picked a quote from another movie altogether, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, which begins with our two protagonists watching Pretty Woman and commenting on it. Until now, that was all I had seen of Julia Roberts' break-out role. And, frankly, I hadn't had a lot of interest in seeing the whole thing. But the film does get referenced a lot, especially when it comes to Roberts' talents, so when it flipped by on cable, I thought, why not?
It's essentially a modern fairy tale - the hooker with a heart of gold and the cold, hard-working businessman (Richard Gere) just ripe for a thaw.
As for Roberts, there is something awkward and stilted about her, particularly in the first part of the movie where she's wearing the wig. It may be that we're supposed to pick up that the character is out-of-place, that she doesn't really belong in prostitution. Whether Viv is a Madonna-Whore or not isn't that question. I fear that, looking backwards from a high-profile career at this atypical role, makes for a more difficult evaluation. Roberts does not show this much skin, and even in the ribald Erin Brockovich, does not speak with this much color. I put half the responsibility on the script, in failing to define the character fully, but the other half belongs to Roberts. She shines where the character reflects her own personality; elsewhere, she stumbles through adequately. Perhaps this explains her career once she could pick and choose her roles, playing to her strengths.
As a fairy tale, the movie is adequate - from the spectacle to the redepemptive storyline, the bases are covered. Yet there's little to celebrate. Why do we care about the fate of these characters? Sure, there's chemistry between Gere and Roberts, but it's not enough sustain a complete feature. The plot is simplistic, trying to stun us with revelations of the obvious. I think I've had the right idea all along (who to blame for that one?), and this one is worth passing on altogether.
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