Pretty Woman (1999) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: R for sexuality and some language
Running Time: 119 min. (125 min, Director's Cut)

Cast: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Ralph Bellamy, Jason Alexander, Laura San Giacomo, Alex Hyde-White, Amy Yasbeck, Elinor Donahue, Hector Elzondo
Small role: Hank Azaria, Larry Miller, Garry Marshall
Garry Marshall
Screenplay: J.F. Lawton
Review published August 18, 1998

A wealthy businessman (Gere, Final Analysis) hires a prostitute (Roberts, I Love Trouble) walking the streets of LA after his girlfriend leaves him. Seeking more of a no-strings companion than a sexual encounter, he decides to hire her for a week to accompany him as an escort for social occasions. He discovers in her the first person to surprise him in a long time with her insights and liveliness. She sees in him the prince she has always dreamed of. As they both help each other's ills, they grow closer than the hooker/trick relationship.

Undeniable chemistry between Gere and Roberts notwithstanding, this is most impressive for the brilliant directorial efforts of Garry Marshall (Runaway Bride, Georgia Rule). To think such a story would be palatable for mainstream America, but also revered as a great romantic comedy by many people 8 to 80 is nothing short of astonishing. Great cinematography, a memorably terrific supporting cast featuring Hector Elizondo (Beverly Hills Cop III) and Ralph Bellamy (Amazon Women on the Moon), and a perfect balance of fluff comedy and serious drama.

Marshall realizes that this kind of story happens only in Hollywood, and nicely bookends the film alludes to the dreams, fantasies and settings of Hollywood. That said, the "reform" of Gere from financial barracuda to caring philanthropist is neither interesting nor plausible and his attempted takeover of a business owned by Bellamy to break it up and sell it for profit provide the films only lulls. Yet the Gigi-esque qualities shine through, and Roberts is a revelation in her breakthrough role.

Qwipster's rating:

1998 Vince Leo