From the outset, Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman seems like a superficial film with stereotypical “chick-flick” characters. If you find yourself on the back of its DVD cover, chances are you won’t be lured in by its charm.
However, Pretty Woman is the film that began a long line of influential movies from the 90s, such as Indecent Proposal, and Titanic. The story follows Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), a beautiful and quirky prostitute searching for something new. When she’s hired for a week as an escort for a dashing businessman, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), the pair begin a hopeless romance.
Pretty Woman doesn’t just tell the story of a prostitute; it allows us to experience it firsthand. We can feel Vivian’s naïveté when she enters Edward’s swanky hotel for the first time. Her ignorance of city life and high society makes us cringe; yet this is how she navigates herself in this new world. She compels other people to accept her for who she is. Vivian talks with her mouth full and is kicked out of retail establishments, yet these features make her relationship with Edward that much more compelling.
Initially, there was a backlash towards Pretty Woman’s overall premise, and it’s not hard to see why. When Edward parades through his social circles with Vivian on his arm, we’re forced to wonder if Vivian derives her self-worth from the nice clothes and expensive hotel suite Edward buys for her.
While the route of the film’s controversy is debatable, its message is simple. Pretty Woman is about a woman who learns to achieve her goals without backing down. She doesn’t find success in a man, but rather, she finds it in herself.
Almost 27 years after its release, Pretty Woman’s innocent plotline never fails to clash with its serious undertones. Despite the film’s glorification of prostitution, we’re able to relate to its characters. We can feel comfortable with people we have nothing in common with, because ultimately, we all share similar goals.