Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman Study Guide

Pretty Woman is considered one of the most iconic American romantic comedies. It is interpreted by many as a modern American retelling of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, in which a rich and successful benefactor plucks a naive girl from the wrong side of the tracks and turns her into a lady, falling in love with her in the process. The film also bear resemblances to the classic fairy tale Cinderella. Released in 1990, it was one of the highest grossing films of that year, and Julia Roberts was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her performance. Indeed, Pretty Woman transformed the career of its leading lady, Julia Roberts, whose touching and genuine performance catapulted her onto the A List and cemented her as one of the most popular actresses of our time.

Pretty Woman follows Edward Lewis (played by Richard Gere), a shy but detached corporate businessman, and Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts), a savvy and charming prostitute, as they each transform each other's lives. Vivian transforms from a prostitute on Hollywood Boulevard to a well-dressed lady, navigating the social minefield of Los Angeles society for a week as Edward Lewis's companion. Edward, a hard-nosed venture capitalist whose greatest skill is breaking companies into pieces and selling them for a gigantic profit, is softened by Vivian's personable and loving ways. Vivian teaches Edward the importance of thinking of people in business. While the couple faces stumbling blocks along the way given their different class backgrounds, they are ultimately surprised to find themselves falling in love with one another. The film has a happy ending.

The film went through many changes before shooting. The screenplay, by J.F. Lawton, originally depicted a darker story of prostitution and bleak desperation. In the original draft, Vivian and Edward spent a week together, but did not fall in love at the end of it. The original draft was purchased by Disney, a company that was trying to break into darker territory. Eventually, however, after a number of collaborations, the film was amended to reflect the fairy tale ending that everyone knows and loves.