Pretty Woman (1990), or This Is EXCRUCIATING!

6 05 2009

Rom-coms rub me the wrong way sometimes. They all seem to insist on a very banal but very validated romance that I don’t believe in. It’s a very uninspired yet very intimidated form of passion that’s based on the physical and the material rather than the emotional or the intellectual, the immature teenage attraction instead of the underappreciated appeal of a lasting relationship. They seep the idea of love in something that’s not to my liking, and then they twist the knife by implying that it must be everyone’s fantasy to fall in love with someone classically “beautiful” and “postured”, as if life would not be unfathomably shallow and disgusting if the Barbie and Ken ideal became a reality. I do not enjoy the concept, so I had some hesitation when I decided to watch today’s feature, Pretty Woman, which might just be the most well-known romantic comedy of the past twenty years. Within the first ten minutes, I found myself completely validated by its asinine concept, its implausible wish-fulfillment plot, and its ham-handed performances turned in by actors who were obviously hired for their names rather than their chops.

Listen to how much this resembles a sappy romance novel. Richard Gere is Edward, the suave corporate playboy. One day he’s driving around in Hollywood when he suddenly realizes he’s lost. Being a corporate bon vivant, he usually never needs help, but he’s more sensitive than most businessmen, so he asks for directions from the last person he’d normally be caught dead with; a mouthy prostitute named Vivian. Offering to give him directions herself, they find their way back to his posh hotel, where one thing leads to another and he ends up hiring her for a night. In the morning, when they both wake up after a night of wealthy passion and soul-searching inquiry, Edward asks her to be his personal date for the week, the lady on his arm, if you will, offering to pay her $3,000 for her services. She takes him up on the offer, liking the idea of being treated to luxuries and upper-crust living for a little while. But while they both have their reasons for being around one another, it soon becomes apparent that Edward and Vivian are falling for each other. But will years of living the cold-hearted life of a corporate “raider” prevent him from expressing himself, thus sundering them apart? Or can he pull it together at the end and get the hooker with the heart of gold as his woman? What do you think?

This movie gave me a headache. I cannot believe it’s so popular. I might offend a number of sensibilities by saying this, but I truly believe that this is a subpar film that does not deserve the huge place in pop culture it has carved out for itself. And before anyone decries my status as a male for immediate disqualification in this arena, let me quelch your stereotypical worldview. Believe it or not, I’m just as sensitive, if not more, than you ladies are. I believe my main squeeze, who just happens to be a woman, has more than once referred to me as a “big baby”. So when I say that Pretty Woman sucked the emotion out of me and spit it in my face like I was an indentured servant, you can trust me.

It all comes down to one huge factor; relatability. In a typical wish-fulfillment fantasy setting, there’s your average guy/girl and the unattainable HIM/HER. Now, every one of us has some sort of low self-esteem issue, honestly, so on a certain level, whether or not we choose to admit it, I think we all put ourselves in the shoes of the average guy/girl, and our potential partners always feel like the unattainable HIM/HER. The problem here is that this concept is way too messed up to have anyone want to be in the shoes of either character. You either have the cold-fish businessman with daddy issues or the hooker who has an attitude and most likely a past that would horrify the average person on the street. Wow, I get to imagine myself being either a rich asshole or a loud-mouthed nightmare in leather boots and a wig? Gee whiz!!! That’s…really not so great…

It doesn’t help that director Garry Marshall decided to cast Richard Gere and Julia Roberts as the leads. I have nothing good to say about these two here. They don’t act for one second. They speak the lines with the right inflections, but they’re not inhabiting a character in the slightest. They’re Richard Gere and Julia Roberts calling each other different names on-screen. Is the only prerequisite for being cast in a romantic comedy physical attractiveness? If so, I propose a remake with a cast made up entirely of Sears mannequins, because that’s how much I was affected by their acting skills. I know it’s all entertainment, and it’s just supposed to be a feel-good movie, but if I’m not connected in any way to anyone in the whole movie, how am I supposed to feel good?

I would call Pretty Woman a waste of my time. I have seen romantic comedies I have enjoyed (The Holiday), to be sure, and I have seen some that weren’t very bad (Serendipity). But this one crept under my skin like a rash and I am ready to go find some ointment. If I had one good thing to say about the film, I would say that the cinematographyby Charles Minsky is impressive at times, and I would certainly hire him if I were ever to make a film myself. Other than that, though, I have nothing to add to this disappointing endeavor. I give Pretty Woman 2 1/2 loud-mouthed nightmares out of 10. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to enjoy a real, fleshed-out romance with a real human being.

Tomorrow is a surprise film! Check in periodically during the day, and I’ll poke my head in with a mystery review, just for you!!!

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