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PRETTY WOMAN
15th Anniversary Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Ralph Bellamy, Jason Alexander, Laura San Giacomo, Hector Elizando
Director:  Garry Marshall
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Touchstone
Features:  See Review
Length:  125 Minutes
Release Date:  September 6, 2005

"You're late."

"You're stunning."

"You're forgiven!"

Film ***

It's hard to believe it's been 15 years since Julia Roberts first walked off the streets and into our hearts in Pretty Woman.  It makes me feel kind of old.

But like a high school yearbook, watching the movie was like reliving some warm, wonderful memories.  It had been quite a number of years since I'd seen the picture, and the times in between usually have me remembering the film as a pleasant diversion, if not particularly original or monumental.  But maybe that's just the effects of becoming a crotchety old man.  

When I actually view it, I'm always struck by it's charm.  It may not have many new ideas to offer, but it's a rare romantic comedy that's actually both very romantic and very comical.  I'm always surprised at how much I laugh, and how touched I am by the warmth of the screenplay and the characters.  Director Garry Marshall is reputed for delivering harmless, cozy comedies that entertain, and Pretty Woman is a movie he can and does look back upon with pride.

Julia Roberts' star was rising rapidly at the time of the film, having garnered an Oscar nomination for Steel Magnolias, but Pretty Woman showed the world how ready she was to carry a full on starring role.  With her wide smile, sparkling eyes and natural knack for comedy, it's no wonder guys like me fell in love with her.

And of course, the picture marked a return to form for a graying, more elegant version of Richard Gere.  He may not have been an officer anymore, but he was still very much the gentleman, and the chemistry he shared with Ms. Roberts was the foundation that made the whole picture stand tall.

Gere plays Edward Lewis, a rich but sullen businessman who's great with numbers but a little weak in matters of the heart.  He's in Beverly Hills to close a big deal while his relationship back in New York is falling apart, and what he's looking for is a week where he can focus on business without romantic entanglements.

Enter Vivian Ward (Roberts), a prostitute with a heart of gold and the gleam of a dream still in her eye.  Edward makes her an offer she can't refuse:  accompany him for the week while he attempts to by a foundering company in a billion dollar deal.

What starts out as business turns into pleasure.  Vivian shows Edward how to really enjoy life for the first time with her vivacious spirit, while Edward and his millions show Vivian the kind of life she could only dream about.  But the sparks of romance are frequently dampened by disapproving stares by those close to Edward, including his aggressive lawyer (Alexander).  Can the help of a kindly hotel manager (Elizando) turn Vivian from a street girl into a princess before the proverbial clock strikes midnight?

Yes, it's part Pygmalion, part Cinderella, part My Fair Lady without the Cockney accent...but it takes a really jaded heart not to fall for the spell this picture weaves.  It's the kind of story that appeals to the dreamer in all of us.  I'd wager many women have fantasized about having a rich, handsome man come into their lives and take them away...for my own part, I always dream about having Edward's money and being able to romance a gal like Vivian.  There's something for all of us.

Maybe a couple of years will pass before I see Pretty Woman again.  Maybe in that time, my memory will start to cloud the experience, and my attitude will start to grow dismissive again.  Maybe I'll come to my website and pull up my review and wonder what I was thinking when I wrote it.  Maybe it'll inspire me to pop it in again. 

When I do, the simple pleasures of the film will wash over me again.  I'll smile, laugh, and applaud.  Not a bad cycle to find oneself in.

BONUS TRIVIA:  That really is Richard Gere playing the piano in the bar scene.

BONUS TRIVIA II:  This is the extended version of the film, about 8 minutes longer than the original theatrical release.

Video **

Decent, but not impressive.  This anamorphic transfer doesn't mask the fact that the movie is 15 years old.  Colors range from sharp to a little muted, images are somewhat soft throughout, and there is a fair share of noticeable grain.  Watchable, but not exemplary.

Audio **

The 5.1 soundtrack is a little patchy...dialogue is clear but a little thin coming from the center channel, and dynamic range is somewhat compressed.  The instances where the rear channels are employed show some obvious editing and don't blend as seamlessly as they should.  The best parts are the songs, which are great across the board.

Features ***

This anniversary edition boasts a handful of extras, starting with a commentary track from the always delightful Garry Marshall.  His warm enthusiasm and memories always make for an enjoyable listen.

There is a short gag reel, the original 1990 production featurette, a video from the rap party (a rendition of "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" featuring Richard Gere on piano and Garry Marshall on drums, and an attempt at vocal from Julia Roberts), an interactive map of the L.A. locations hosted by Marshall, a trailer and a video for Natalie Cole's "Wild Women Do".  A few more videos would have been nice considering how great the soundtrack was!

Summary:

I love it when they finally let her shop.  Pretty Woman is a film with very specific goals in mind, and it hits every single one of them.  Julia Roberts is radiant, Richard Gere is charming, and the spirited screenplay and direction make this a timeless romantic comedy, even after fifteen years have passed.

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