Modern Heat author Heidi Rice is back for another of her monthly movie blogs and once again it's a classic guilty pleasure romance.... Are we beginning to see a pattern here?
First off, I'm going to fess up and say that Pretty Woman has to qualify as the ultimate guilty pleasure for a card-carryingfeminist like myself. (Oh, all right, I don't actually have a card but I have sung Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive in the shower on occasion so that must count for something). Basically, what we have here is Cinderella meets Pygmalion given a big-shouldered, big-haired 90s makeover.
Why such a guilty pleasure??
Well, for starters, there's a young Julia Roberts romantically cast as an LA streetwalker. What's wrong with this picture? Well, how about that Julia has the face and body of a top super-model (for the purposes of this blog we'll forget the rumours that that's a stunt body in the opening sequence). She's clean and fresh and sweet and artless. She still has her pride and she hasn't got a pimp or a drug habit - despite having been a prostitute on Hollywood Boulevard for an indeterminate amount of time. And I'm not even going to mention the lustrous mane of pre-Raphelite hair she manages to fit under a tiny blonde wig.
Okay, so far so completely unrealistic.
Next up we have the gorgeous, steely-haired and steely eyed Richard Gere. A billionaire corporate raider with a fear of heights but no qualms about letting a prostitute he's just picked up off the streets drive his buddy's extremely pricey car. And then hiring her for a week to be his 'beck-and-call' girl for a cool $3000. And then falling hopelessly in love with her and offering to marry her.
Now when this film came out in 1990 it got battered by all manner of people for its ridiculous plot, its cheesy denouement, its dodgy sexual politics, yada-yada-yada. You name it —everyone from feminists, to film critics, to social commentators lined up to take a pop at it. And could not figure out why it was such a huge, mega, stupendously spectacular hit.
Sound familiar, ladies??
Yes, that's right, as category romance authors and readers we all know where these criticisms are coming from and we all know where they're going. So now I'm going to whip off my film critic's beanie, and pop on my hopeless romantics bonnet and let you in on Pretty Woman's big secret (which, of course, you've already cottoned on to) and explain why women everywhere lapped it up, me included.
Cue drum-roll please.
Pretty Woman, despite all those pseudo gritty trappings, is one great big chocolate-covered, fluffy, fuzzy feel-good romantic FANTASY. And surprise, surprise, women like me watching it can tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
No I didn't get the urge to rush out and become an LA streetwalker so I could meet my Mr Right. No I wouldn't be prepared to sell myself for $3000 and a designer wardrobe just to spend one week with Richard Gere in his luxury Beverly Wiltshire Hotel penthouse suite and get up close and personal with him on a grand piano, and a whirlpool tub, and a luxury leather sofa.... Ummm, actually, when you put it like that.... maybe I would. But that's beside the point.
The point here is that I love watching this movie because I love seeing Julia Roberts's sweet, disingenuous and gutsy girl from the wrong side of the tracks learning to trust men again and getting the Cinderella moment she deserves. And I love watching Richard Gere's cold-hearted industrialist discover he does have a heart after all. That for all his money and power he's lonely, he has no friends he can trust and he has issues with his dead dad that he's never resolved - until bright, honest, straightforward and drop-dead beautiful Julia (and her body double) come into his life and show him what happiness (ie love) is really all about.
So ta-daa. I give you Pretty Woman. A guilty pleasure without the guilt. Yes it's fantasy, but it's done with complete conviction, lots of panache, two fabulous and likeably flawed leads and enough of a soupcon of reality to make us believe wholeheartedly in their Happy Ever After.
Heidi's latest Modern Heat, Pleasure, Pregnancy and a Proposition is out in the US in March as a Presents and is currently riding high on eharlequin's bestseller list.
And her next Modern Heat, Hot-Shot Tycoon: Indecent Proposal, is due out in the UK in June (and Hot is definitely the operative word).
Find out more about her books (and her other guilty pleasures) by reading her blog, visiting her website and/or sending her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.