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Vivian is a spirited, streetwise diamond in the rough when she meets no-nonsense billionaire Edward. It's a chance encounter that turns a weeklong business arrangement into a timeless rags-to-riches romance when Edward hires Vivian to be his date and discovers there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye.
For more about Pretty Woman and the Pretty Woman Blu-ray release, see the Pretty Woman Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 29, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Ralph Bellamy, Jason Alexander, Laura San Giacomo, Hector Elizondo
Director: Garry Marshall
» See full cast & crew
Pretty Woman Blu-ray Review
A classic Romance sparkles on Blu-ray
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 29, 2009
I'm going to treat you so nice, you're never going to want to let me go.
Quickly, name several films that defined the 1990s. Certainly, Terminator 2 ranks near, if not at, the top of the list as one of the most influential films representing the new era of special effects that continue to amaze audiences today; Pulp Fiction enjoys the status as perhaps the favorite cult classic of the decade; Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace represents the pinnacle of anticipation; and Titanic owns all the records. Most any honest top-ten list would have to include these as well as 1990's Pretty Woman, director Garry Marhsall's (The Princess Diaries) smash hit that has rightfully cemented its place as a modern classic. It is a rags-to-riches fairy tale that might superficially seem to show what a credit card and some nice clothes can do for a person, but the film is far more than that. It is an exquisite Romance, and in some ways the perfect film, with instantly recognizable and relatable characters despite their larger-than-life stature; a breezy, quotable script; a fantastic soundtrack; and most importantly, a genuine, heartwarming, and meaningful story. Even today, approaching its twenty-year anniversary, the tale remains as timeless, the story as moving, the jokes as funny, the themes as important, the characters as memorable, and the feelings as delightful as they ever were, and will continue to be.
Billionaire Edward Lewis (Richard Gere, Shall We Dance?) is in California to seal his latest corporate acquisition deal. He leaves a party early, in his attorney's manual-shifting Lotus Esprit, a car the lifelong limousine rider cannot properly handle. He stops on Hollywood Boulevard, a hotspot for prostitution, and is approached and propositioned by Vivian (Julia Roberts, Closer). Lewis, instead, simply asks for directions to his hotel, the classy Regent Beverly Wilshire, which she offers -- for a fee. To Lewis's liking, Vivian happens to be familiar with cars, and she takes the wheel for the trip to the hotel. Curious and oddly attracted to her, Lewis asks her to spend the night with him. A night becomes a week; Lewis agrees to pay her $3,000 for her time as his "beck and call girl," providing her with the funds to acquire a new wardrobe so as to be presentable while at his side. As Lewis and his attorney, Philip Stuckey (Jason Alexander, TV's "Seinfeld"), work to close their latest deal with businessman James Morse (Ralph Bellamy in his final role), Vivian finds it difficult to fit into high society. She is disrespected on Rodeo Drive and turns to the hotel's manager, Barney Thompson (Hector Elizondo, Necessary Roughness), for help. Vivian instantly transforms into a lady, from the scourge of the hotel to its most glamorous guest. Meanwhile, her time with Lewis begins to morph from business to pleasure to love. Can she live the fairy tale and be rescued by prince charming, or will Lewis remain a stoic, business-first man that has no time for love?
Pretty Woman represents the pinnacle of the Romantic Comedy, though it doesn't nestle exclusively into that genre. It's a drama, too, but a fairy tale at its core. It finds a home in any and all of the classifications one might logically assign to it. The romance is accompanied by some of the most natural, pleasing, and sincere comedy that fits the film perfectly. There are no over-the-top or cheap laughs; it's all subtle, honest, and real. Likewise, the dramatic elements, primarily focused on the business dealings between Lewis and Morris, always feel like an integral part of the story; the film never drags during several extended sequences featuring the pair at work. They are at times highlighted by perfectly orchestrated comedy or scenes of genuine tension and heartfelt drama that punctuate the story and help to bring Lewis's character full circle. The film also handles the romance wonderfully; the use of sound in each romantic encounter between Lewis and Vivian captures the mood and purpose of each one. The first encounter is all but silent; the television goes mute, and this encounter is easily classified as "all business." The second, taking place in the hotel lounge, is the first that plays out as the characters are discovering their feelings for one another. Easily the most erotic (but tasteful) scene in the film, the encounter is punctuated by random strokes of the piano, as if it is being finely tuned, or at least, in this case literally, practiced on for the third encounter, the one that comes when the pair have fallen in love. The scene is accompanied by soft instrumental music that signifies the fruition of the relationship.
As one of the defining movies of the 1990s, Pretty Woman did more than simply entertain audiences and swell the hearts of hopeless romantics the world over. It made a bona fide superstar out of Julia Roberts, who went on to become the leading lady of the decade, starring in films like Sleeping With the Enemy, The Pelican Brief, My Best Friend's Wedding, and Notting Hill, and she remains a player and dependable box-office draw well into the 21st century. Her co-star, Richard Gere, already an established Hollywood commodity and well-known for his roles in An Officer and a Gentleman and Internal Affairs, went from dependable actor to himself one of Tinseltown's go-to leading men and heartthrobs, starring in everything from thrillers (Unfaithful), to crime dramas (Primal Fear), to Romantic comedies, teaming up again with Roberts (and director Marshall) in 1999's Runaway Bride. In Pretty Woman, Roberts and Gere sparkle, sharing chemistry and an on-screen rapport that goes nearly unmatched in film history, the two seemingly destined to play opposite one another in the film. As on-screen couples go, they rank near the top along with Gable and Lee, Bogart and Bergman, and Ford and Fisher. Pretty Woman also enjoys fantastic supporting performances. Hector Elizondo turns in a career-defining performance, his character the unsung hero of the film. He's to-the-point and dry, but so likable and sincere, and like Gere's character, but perhaps a bit more slowly, comes to see past Vivian's superficial qualities and appreciate her gentle and well-meaning soul. Jason Alexander also delivers a memorable performance as the quintessential slime ball, "me and my money first," attorney. The film even enjoys fine performances from secondary (Laura San Giacomo as Vivian's friend Kit De Luca) and even tertiary (Patrick Richwood as Dennis the elevator operator) characters.
Richard Gere's character, Edward Lewis, is a delightful one, so simple externally but complex on the inside, and his journey over the week is just as intriguing as Vivian's, though often overlooked because of the magic and charisma that surrounds Roberts's character. Like Lewis, she doesn't transform (though she does physically, in a way), but she allows her true and lost inner-self to find its way home. Both characters -- who they are, and more importantly what they always wanted to be -- come to fruition by the end of the film, but it is Lewis's journey that is the more mesmerizing, perhaps because it isn't necessarily the primary focal point of the film. Certainly, Robert's Vivian steals every scene she is in, but Gere's Lewis remains a fascinating character ripe for examination. He is a man so in control of himself that he doesn't care at all what others think of him or his choice in dates, bringing a poorly dressed and socially inept Vivian to his upscale hotel. He recognizes her potential to be more than she is almost immediately, and develops a fascination with her, seeing a girl that who brings out the lost and unsure man tucked behind the high dollar suits, limousines, and private jets. His usually strong sense of character, business acumen, and ability to read people got him where he is, but he, at first, continues to be surprised by Vivian, even past the initial reaction that told him she was more than a common prostitute. Whether he mistakes her for a drug user when she is simply flossing her teeth or fails to recognize the wig she at first wears, she challenges him, which seems to both worry and intrigue him. He's also a man of honor despite his enormous wealth, a character trait that comes to the surface over the course of the week; the film's finale of him playing the role as her "knight in shining armor" represents not only a "happily ever after," pitch-perfect storybook romantic conclusion, but solidifies his journey from simply a troubled yet steadfast and intellectually superior businessman to his final destination as a true, heroic, and capable-of-true-love, man. Just as important to Lewis's journey, and perhaps one of the most overlooked characters in the film, is Mr. Morse. He represents a father figure to Lewis; his proclamation that he is "proud" of him represents the thematic highlight of the movie, playing a crucial part in the fulfillment of Lewis's journey, which was spurred on, of course, by his relationship with Vivian and a troubled past with his own father.
Pretty Woman Blu-ray, Video Quality
Pretty Woman looks better than ever in this 1080p high definition transfer, the film presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The film is colorful and pleasing to the eye in most every shot. It's not overly bright, perhaps a shade or two dimmer than may be expected, in fact, but those familiar with the movie will note that it looks just as it should. Black levels are wonderful; the nighttime street-level shots of Beverly Hills during the film's first act are splendid. Flesh tones occasionally look slightly red, but are mostly stable and pleasing. Fine detail is adequate, not mind blowing, but good, and certainly far better, obviously, than any previous VHS, LaserDisc, or DVD version has offered. Bright outdoor scenes fare the best; a polo sequence in chapter eleven is the highlight of the film from a purely visual, high definition perspective. Natural film grain is present throughout that adds a sometimes surprisingly gritty feel to several sequences, but also lends to the film a nice theatrical feel. This one is definitely not going to set the high definition world on fire the way Baraka or I, Robot did, but it's still a real treat to see a classic like this looking as good as it does here. Fans should be absolutely thrilled by this release.
Pretty Woman Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Pretty Woman shines in high definition with a lovely PCM 5.1 uncompressed soundtrack, and the film has never sounded better, at home anyway, and probably theatrically, too. The best part of the experience is enjoying the classic soundtrack, which plays better than ever. The music isn't overplayed, over-pumped, or in any way phony sounding, but is rather natural and pleasant. It's all focused up front, with a nice amount of heft accompanying each song. Christopher Otcasek's Real Wild Child, David Bowie's Fame 90, Roxette's It Must have Been Love, and Natalie Cole's Wild Women Do are among the selections that lend to the film its stature as an all-time classic soundtrack, bring back memories of the 1990s, and, of course, sound fantastic in PCM 5.1 lossless audio. Roy Orbison's Pretty Woman, heard briefly and instrumentally for the first time in chapter 10, delivers a nice bit of low bass, the best in the film. Then, the song begins in full over a brief montage, delivering a clear but classic sound. There is a nice sense of space to the track, particularly across the front, especially in regards to the popular music and atmosphere. The rear channels don't receive much action, but that's alright. This is a character- and dialogue-driven story that allows the acting, direction, sets, popular music, and script to carry the story, and the soundtrack supports this perfectly. Like the video, Pretty Woman's soundtrack won't amaze the senses, but it's very good for what it is, and what it needs to accomplish.
Pretty Woman Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of Pretty Woman features a few supplements. Headlining this set is a commentary track with director Garry Marshall. Right from the get-go, the director lends a light, easy, and friendly feel to the track as he takes audiences throughout the movie, discussing the stars, the purpose behind many shots, the motivations of the characters, the themes of the story, what worked in the film then, what doesn't exactly work now, and what still works today. In short, the track is an excellent one; it's an easy and entertaining listen that anyone who enjoyed the film will want to give a chance. Next up is a blooper reel (480p, 2:36). Live From the Wrap Party (480p, 4:05) is a brief look at the festivities that took place after the shoot, focusing on stars Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, and director Garry Marshall performing the song Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood. LA: The 'Pretty Woman' Tour (480p, 9:11) features director Garry Marshall leading viewers on a brief interactive tour through several of the locations seen in the film. Locations include the L.A. Equestrian Center, Hollywood Boulevard, the W Hotel, Rodeo Drive, the Regent Beverly Wilshire, the National History Museum, the Las Palmas Hotel, and Cicada. 1990 Production Featurette (480p, 3:46) is a short promo piece that shows clips from the film and cast and crew interviews. Concluding the supplements is the Wild Woman Do music video (480p, 4:09) by Natalie Cole and the film's theatrical trailer (480p, 2:38).
Pretty Woman Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Pretty Woman enjoys its status as a classic Romance because it does everything right, playing as a simple fairy tale updated for modern times, with an impeccable cast, unobtrusive direction, a classic soundtrack, and a witty, smart, and meaningful script. The film is also paced incredibly well; five minutes into the film becomes 15, which becomes 30, which becomes an hour, which becomes the credits. There is nothing to drag the picture down in any one area. It holds tremendous replay value, and is one of the finest feel-good movies ever to grace the silver screen. Disney has seen fit to release Pretty Woman just in time for Valentine's Day, and the film has received the treatment it deserves. Though not in the same league as the best reference Blu-ray discs on the market, Pretty Woman nevertheless sparkles in its own right, looking and sounding far better than it ever has on home video. The disc also features a nice, though underwhelming, selection of bonus materials. Pretty Woman is a classic film that is to be enjoyed anytime, anywhere, and by most anyone, but Blu-ray has certainly breathed new life into it, and the film is a necessary addition to every serious Blu-ray collection. Highly recommended.
Pretty Woman Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - February 10th - February 10, 2009
In a time when a musicians' popularity rises and falls more often than the tides, it is somewhat difficult to imagine that a single person could be regarded as "the best", and that people could hold that sentiment over 200 years after his death. I of course speak ...
• Pretty Woman Blu-ray Detailed - January 22, 2009
Walt Disney Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Pretty Woman', which is due to hit store shelves on February 10th. Video will be presented in 1.85:1 1080p AVC accompanied by a 5.1 24-bit ...
• Disney Announces More Classics Coming to Blu-ray - January 7, 2009
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has announced some of the upcoming Blu-ray titles fans should expect to see released this year. Additionally, Disney has announced that all Disney-branded new releases and Platinum Edition Blu-ray titles will feature a DVD ...
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