Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, an iconic moment from 'Pretty Woman'

For, July 11, 2014

"Pretty Woman" (1990, R) made Julia Roberts a star, and she's been on the A-list ever since. It also earned her an Oscar nomination, her second after "Steel Magnolias" the year before.

But that first nomination was for best supporting actress. Roberts' "Pretty Woman" nomination was as best actress. (She would go on to win as best actress in 2001 for "Erin Brockovich.")

When I reviewed "Pretty Woman" for the Deseret News in March 1990, I described it as an update of "Pygmalion" (or if you'd rather, "My Fair Lady," sans the songs) with Richard Gere as the Henry Higgins stand-in.

Gere is a businessman out of his element in Beverly Hills and he needs an escort for meetings, dinners, etc. So he hires Roberts — a streetwise hooker — so there will be no strings attached.


As if we didn't know from the get-go that a fairy tale romance will ensue.


             Hector Elizondo, Laura San Giacomo, 'Pretty Woman'

There's also a lot of witty comic support from Laura San Giacomo, Ralph Bellamy, Larry Miller, Jason Alexander — and especially Hector Elizondo, whose warm, sympathetic and funny performance as the hotel manager gives the film a real boost.

But "fairy tale" is the key phrase there.

As conceived by veteran comedy filmmaker Garry Marshall, this is very much a feathery rom-com, which makes it all the more perplexing that he throws in gritty R-rated "realistic" violence, sex, nudity and profanity — in particular an unpleasant rape scene — which is at odds with the film's tone and the lightness of humor.

"Pretty Woman" is about as far from realism as a film can get, so what's the point of that?


Despite the misgivings expressed in that original review, however, the R rating didn't hurt the film's earnings. It was No. 4 at the box office for 1990, after "Home Alone," "Ghost" and "Dances With Wolves." In fact, it was one of three R-rated films in 1990's top 10, the others being "Total Recall" and "Die Hard 2."

"Pretty Woman" will play at several Cinemark theaters around the valley, around the state and around the country on Sunday, July 13, at 2 p.m., and on Wednesday, July 16, at 2 and 7 p.m.