Pretty Woman, the romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, is an updated My Fair Lady as well as a social commentary about money. Not only had it been a blockbuster film in 1990, but it also had changed the template of rom-coms.
The storyline is about the romance between a prostitute and a businessman who both, as mentioned in the movie’s dialogue, screw people for money.
While on a business trip in L.A. Edward (Richard Gere), who makes a living buying and breaking up companies, picks up a hooker, Vivian (Julia Roberts), on a lark. After Edward hires Vivian to stay with him for the weekend, the two get closer, only to discover there are significant hurdles to overcome as they try to bridge the gap between their very different worlds.”Rotten Tomatoes
The “Cinderella meets Sunset Strip” movie received mixed reviews. 30+ years after its theatrical release, the movie has a 7 out of 10 ranking at IMDb.com and Rotten Tomatoes gives it 63% out of 100.
One reason for the movie’s popularity is Vivian’s makeover. When Entertainment Weekly reviewer Owen Glieberman watched the movie again for the 10th anniversary, he said that Pretty Woman “ushered in a new age of fashion obsession, an era in which the romantic and the cosmetic would be entangled with a new seductive, if not addictive, intensity. It marked Pretty Woman as the rare Hollywood movie that doesn’t just channel the culture but changes it.”
Makeover aficionados know that the shopping spree is the easiest part of a transformation. Change can be messy and painful. Pretty Woman fans who want more transformation magic should read The Millionaire Makeover by Naima Simone.
In order to grab the attention of an eligible bachelor, Khloe needs to be viewed as a desirable woman. What better way to get that message across than with a sexy man obviously lusting after her? She just didn’t think Niall would be the one roped in to play the part. Not only was he her late brother’s best friend, but Khloe and Niall had an epic and grief-fuelled one-night stand before he rejected her and broke her heart.
Niall bankrolls Khloe’s makeover, but only because he disapproves of the way she hides her body and true nature. He doesn’t need the updated style to really see—or desire—her in this red-hot contemporary romance.
Toby Rose from Empire magazine had rated the Pretty Woman movie 3 out of 5 stars, saying it was a “lightweight designer morality tale packed with just enough style and sex.” However, he also pointed out that “this modern fable still has more than enough chemistry between its leading pair to rank in the box-office rewards.”
Gigolos, mistresses, escorts and sex workers can be found as protagonists in romantic fiction. If a main character in a popular romance is hired for sex, expect sizzling chemistry.
Readers who want more of this scenario should try The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. In this gender-swapping Pretty Woman love story, Stella needs practice when it comes to dating, kissing and sex. She has Asperger syndrome and finds many social interaction difficult and exhausting. Stella decides to hire Michael, a male escort, so she can learn how to perform better.
Stella and Michael have to overcome their pride and insecurities to find their happily-ever-after. The soul-bearing sex and deep intimacy is profound in this outstanding romance.
Pretty Woman is an iconic rom-com because, as pop culture critic Caroline Siede says at AV Film Club, it’s endless watchable. “It’s funny without losing its emotional groundedness, high-stakes without losing its charm, and sexy without losing its romantic innocence.”
Siede is quick to point out that the movie is also about money, and that the most emotionally satisfying scene is when Vivian returns to store that had refused her service the day before.
The rags-to-riches trope is popular in romance fiction. It taps into our understanding of the character’s struggle but it also plays with the fantasy of luck. When it comes to Cinderella retellings, however, the glitz and glamour are essential. Pretty Woman fans who want more of these fairy tales story elements should try a book from the Harlequin Presents series.
Start with The Cozakis Bride by Lynne Graham. Olympia is defeated by circumstances. In order to get the help she needs for her ailing mother, the heroine reluctantly agrees to marry Nik, the man who broke her heart years ago. But Nik wants something in return: an heir.
Originally published in 2000, the playboy billionaire clashes with the rebellious virgin in this forced marriage romance. The glamorous international settings, emotional family drama and scorching sexual tension make the vintage Harlequin Presents pure escapism!
When Pretty Woman fans watch the movie again, how can they hold onto the fizzy and feel-good fairy tale? They should look for a romance novel that promises one of the following: makeover scenarios or Plain Jane characters, protagonists who are mistresses or escorts, rags-and-riches tropes or Cinderella retellings, and—last but not least—glamour, seduction and passion.
What makes a movie one of the best romantic comedies? Hollywood has a different set of requirements than the romance reader.