I doubt that when George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion in 1912, he could even imagine that it would become the main inspiration for so many great stories to come. The same idea has since then been adapted and used as a starting point for endless tales, which always seem to perfectly match the standards and trends of each time. Although very familiar and seen in different ways over and over again — Pygmalion’s core meaning remains just as popular and looks like it will be encouraging more and more storytellers to explore it and more and more stories to try and make it entirely their own, for a long time still.
When Pretty Woman was released in 1990, it instantly became a huge box-office success — and nobody was in the slightest surprised. On his way back to his hotel room, Edward Lewis takes a wrong turn and drives through Hollywood Boulevard where he stops to ask Vivian Ward for directions. She is willing to help him out as long as he pays her. And so a very wealthy and successful businessman has just met a very pretty woman — but also a prostitute.
Together, they drive to his luxurious penthouse suite and they spend the night. In the morning, Edward has a business offer for Vivian; to become his escort for a week, a time during which she will have to use some of his money to buy herself an entire new wardrobe. As Vivian slowly changes from provocatively sexy, to elegant and sophisticated, Edward is astonished by her transformation. Her makeover leaves him speechless and in a split second he becomes her admirer, her guide, her protector.
Pretty Woman achieves something remarkable. While repeating all known clichés of the genre, it never slows down nor does it becomes dull. It maintains a great pace, keeping it funny, sexy and bittersweet throughout. The chemistry between the two lead actors is the other chief reason for this movie becoming a classic hit. Richard Gere and Julia Roberts nail it — and the film’s outstanding rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack does nothing but compliment their beautiful performances.
This may be a girly movie; one that lets a woman believe that everything is possible. J.F Lawton’s script and Garry Marshall’s direction present their primarily female audience with a reality that exists only in fairy-tales — one of princes and Cinderellas. But at the same time, Pretty Woman knows and shares with us a much needed (especially for the 90’s) message; that no one should be judged by the way they dress, speak or act, as this is the time to believe in what lies inside and in second chances. Anyone’s dreams can come true and everyone has it in them to be great.
Pretty Woman got Julia Roberts to the top of our favourite actresses and gave her her first Oscar nomination. It also made us believe in the fairy-tale, without for a minute pretending to forget about the importance of money… It might not be everything, but it can certainly get you up the respect ladder. And this classic hit puts it simply, without discouraging anyone who hasn’t yet got it.