Romantic comedies get a bad rep these days, more often referred to as the derogatory term ‘chick flicks.’ What we forgot is that someone of the best movies ever made fall into the genre of romantic comedies, like “It Happened One Night,” “The Philadelphia Story,” and “Annie Hall.” Another great example of the genre is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, “Pretty Woman.”
“Pretty Woman” is the story of a cold-hearted businessman who hires a charming prostitute to be his escort while he looks to close out a business deal. The more time they spend together the more they begin to fall for each other and help each other reach their best selves. It’s a sweet film with a pretty bow on it, but that wasn’t always the case.
J.F. Lawton’s original screenplay was titled “$3,000,” which referred to the fee that Edward pays Vivian to be his escort for the week. The script also had a much darker tone. One example being that Vivian was originally slated to be a drug addict. When Touchstone Pictures bought the film, a subsidiary of Walt Disney Pictures, the film dropped the drug angle.
However, one thing that makes “Pretty Woman” stand out is that it doesn’t completely get rid of those darker elements. There’s the scene where Edward takes Vivian on the hotel piano, as well as the scene at the end of the film when Stuckey attempts to rape Vivian. Keeping these elements in the film offered a great juxtaposition to all the cutesy antics and fairy-tale ending, making them all the more effective.
Of course, perhaps the biggest legacy of “Pretty Woman,” outside of the iconic shopping spree on Rodeo Drive that woman the world over envy, is being the launch pad for Julia Roberts’ career. Roberts was already an Oscar nominee when “Pretty Woman” was released, earning a Best Supporting Actress nomination for “Steel Magnolias.” “Pretty Woman” established Roberts as a leading lady and a bankable one at that, as the film grossed $178 million domestically, the fourth highest of 1990. Roberts would earn her second Oscar nomination, and first for Best Actress.
This was also the first of two collaborations between Roberts and Richard Gere; they would reunite in 1999 for “Runaway Bride.” Because of those films, the pair was one of the most iconic movie couples of the 90s. Garry Marshall would direct both outings.
There is a difference between chick flicks and romantic comedies. Chick flicks are lazy, clichéd outings that just make sure they check off the boxes of two beautiful people falling in love and living happily ever after. Romantic comedies rely on chemistry and provide interesting and entertaining looks at relationships. “Pretty Woman” is a romantic comedy, and certainly one of the best of the last 25 years.