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Pretty Woman

#290 - Pretty Woman
Garry Marshall, 1990

A lower-class call-girl is employed by a wealthy businessman for the span of a week to serve as a business associate.

Probably the most well-known example of what constitutes a modern Hollywood rom-com, Pretty Woman isn't quite as intolerable as I'd been led to believe, but it's still hard to take seriously either as a romance or a comedy. The basic plot sounds like it leans more towards the tragic than the upbeat - Julia Roberts plays the titular character, whose struggle to make rent and keep up with her drug-addicted roommate/colleague (Laura San Giacomo) results in her meeting the successful but romantically impaired millionaire (Richard Gere), who ultimately contracts her services for an entire week. Going beyond the obvious implications of sex work, she also serves as a more conventional escort to various social engagements that he must attend. Of course, between her rather uncultured upbringing and his standoffish demeanour, there is plenty of odd-couple chemistry to fill out two hours before the pair eventually realise how right they are for one another (while also fighting off various other complications).

Even without knowing that it was originally intended to be a much darker film than it eventually ended up being, it's still pretty weak as far as fluff goes. Granted, Julia Roberts is fairly charming as the titular character, but otherwise it feels too light for its own good - even when it does edge into sufficiently unsettling territory towards the end, it still feels weirdly inconsequential afterwards due to the treatment of the rest of the film. The whole thing just blows along with a soundtrack of nothing but hits, some largely lacklustre comedy (the only genuine chuckles I got out of this film were simply based on the presence of a pre-Seinfeld Jason Alexander, while Hector Elizondo is a memorable presence as a stuffy hotel manager who gradually warms up to the uncouth Roberts), and a romantic element that is unbelievable enough to the point of there being very understandable jokes about how the movie is practically a fairytale (which isn't helped by the fact that at one point Roberts' character recounts her own princess-rescue fantasy). There's enough going on that it's not a total waste of time, but it comes pretty close.