Pretty Woman

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When business becomes pleasure...

A 1990 film named for the song by Roy Orbison. Richard Gere plays Edward Lewis, a rich man who hires Vivian Ward, a Hooker with a Heart of Gold to hang out with him while he stays in LA. They end up falling for each other.

This movie was a blockbuster when it came out. It made Julia Roberts a star; she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress as well.

Pretty Woman was initially intended to be a dark drama about prostitution in Los Angeles, but was reconceptualized into a romantic comedy. Today it is one of the most financially successful romantic comedies ever, with an estimated gross of 464 million US$ (adjusted for inflation). The film was followed by a string of similar romantic comedies, including Runaway Bride, which teamed up Gere and Roberts under the direction of Garry Marshall once again.


Tropes used in Pretty Woman include:
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: Vivian's one rule is that she never kisses on the mouth because it makes it too personal. She does kiss Richard Gere on the mouth when she starts to fall in love with him.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Vivian has an emotional reaction to La Traviata (especially considering the subject).
  • Cool Car: The Lotus Esprit.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: Subverted where it at first seems to be this, but turns out to really be about redirecting the flattery to someone else.

[After Edward informs salesclerk Hollister that he will be spending an obscene amount of money buying clothes for Vivian at Hollister's shop]
Hollister: Mr. Lewis? How's it going so far?
Edward: Pretty well, I think. I think we need some major sucking up.
Hollister: Very well, sir. You're not only handsome, but a powerful man. I could see the second you walked in here, you were someone to reckon with...
Edward: Hollister.
Hollister: Yes, sir?
Edward: Not me. Her.

Vivian: Hey, do you remember me? I was in here yesterday, and you wouldn't let me buy anything. You work on commission, don't you? [holds up shopping bags] Big mistake! Big. Huge!

  • Platonic Prostitution: Well, it starts that way.
  • Pretty in Mink: The spec script involved Edward renting Vivian a white fur coat to wear during their time together. When she had to give it back, Edward just thought she was upset due to not keeping the coat.
  • Princess Phase: When Vivian was a little girl she would pretend she was a princess... trapped in a tower by a wicked queen. And then suddenly this knight... on a white horse with these colors flying would come charging up and draw his sword. And she would wave. And he would climb up the tower and rescue her.
  • Rags to Riches
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Vivian getting a makeover.
  • Shopping Montage
  • Troubled Sympathetic Bigot: Edward keeps looking down on Vivian, in spite of not wanting to and in spite of his prejudice against her being proven wrong. Of course, he's rather oblivious to the whole thing, innocently arguing that she should accept being treated like a commodity because he's a nice buyer.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: Sure, we have the Downer Beginning, but she eventually manage to get out of prostitution. Sure, she has awful self-esteem, and explains how a fucked-up life had her end up in prostitution, but her current john is a nice guy. Sure, this nice guy get a passive-aggressive fit of jealousy, outing her as a hooker (which leads to her getting sexually harassed and later subjected to attempted rape), but he apologizes for it. Sure, she explains how she spent the whole night crying after she had her first john, and how she's always emotionally detached these days. But he's alienated from his life, too! Most importantly, to the dismay and moral outrage of many viewers, the movie averts the once upon a time mandatory tradition that The Hooker with a Heart of Gold must be killed off before the story is over.
    • Short version: While actually averting this trope completely, the movie managed to become the most famous example of the trope - due to people's extremely low expectations for the treatment of sex worker characters.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Edward's acrophobia, particularly in the final scene. Played with, in that has to expose himself to his fear every time he stays in a hotel if he wants the best accomodations he can afford:

I looked all around for penthouses on the ground floor, but I couldn't find any.

  • Wrench Wench: Vivian's description of her younger self includes working on cars.