Pretty Woman. Before Disney.

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Edward: “Go ahead. Vivian doesn’t care. She is used to six guys a night. Just be sure you wear a condom, she is careful about that.

Instead of whacking Stucky across the chops for his boner-boy harassment of Vivian, here Edward tells him that he is quite welcome to have a crack. Vivian’s body is a democratic locality for men with money, and like all commodities, one that can be ritualistically exchanged. That is the nature of prostitution.

But Disney didn’t want you to see that.

Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman (1990), was originally based on a script by J.F.Lawton and given the working title, 3000. However, having been bought by that purveyor of all things unholy, Disney, the tone of the original script shifted dramatically. Before the effervescent ingénue could be (re)constructed by Julia Roberts, Vivian Ward was a troubled crack addict. Before Richard Gere could play the handsome and sophisticated Edward who just ‘happens’ upon the prostitute, and becomes beside himself with her, he is man who regularly buys the attentions of prostitutes, and pointedly seeks her out. And rather than saving each other, instead Edward rejects Vivian’s refusal of the money paid for her time and body (borne, presumably, of her foolhardy attachment to him)  drags her out of his car and tells her to bugger off and get a’hold of herself. Dejected, she uses the $3000 to take her friend, Kit de Luca, on a bus to Disneyland.

Because just as the punter buys the sexual fantasy, so too Vivian must by the fairy tale.

Yes, optioned to be performed by the ‘edgier’ acting double Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeifer, the narrative was softened into a bubble gum bit of romancing for adolescent girls the world over. Key to this transition, was indeed the casting of Roberts – significantly younger than Gere – whose almost bottled, clean linen loveliness mitigates any realistic prickliness that remains in the film. Unlike all the street walkers I’ve ever met, she looks impossibly confident, in good health and of course, free from drugs. Because Disney’s heroine could sell sex for a living, but heaven forbid she ever got intoxicated in order to cope with that reality!

And we never see her actually ‘trick’, taking it as a given that Edward is not really a trick in the ordinary sense. No, we can casually forget prostitution was ever her material reality and emotionally fix on the idea of this impossibly beautiful Hollywood star,  drenched in whore’s garb, and playing at prostitution as though it were a form of street theatre. Pretty Woman is a film created in order to appease the Anne Summers style reveries of   the relatively privileged, who imagine (and want to consume) prostitution as a set of outfits and paraphernalias  , not as an activity as done to, usually, poor or otherwise disenfranchised people.

She is not like other prostitutes, no, she has some shinning inner aura that bleeds through the noir streets of night time LA, with its pimps and its clubs and its dead hookers in dustbins. Like Lady and the Tramp, she is just too beautiful to be in that kennel. Unlike her earthy, drug addicted friend, Kit – who is the tinge of pessimism that exists on the periphery – she is in position of the right kind of feminine charm to give her the currency to escape that nihilistic, Bukowskian landscape.  Towards the end, the idea is floated, that Kit might become a beautician. A more fitting aspiration for the lesser whore, in the unlikely event that she ever get off drugs long enough to do it. And should the spectator ever really care.

Of course, there is a subtle self reflexivity in Pretty Woman. An awareness that Hollywood is the paragonic Fatherland of fiction over fact, that marbles together the predominance of grimed poverty, with intermittent speckles of gold licked fortune. It is in the city’s very topography, from the dilapidations of Downtown to the pretty penny streets of Beverly Hills. It defines its cultural texture; a ground zero for a contemporary value system that would sooner remake unedifying, truthful tales into out of reach fantasias. To settle our necessary anxieties about the world. Indeed, the feminism of today has come rooted out of this very bulb, with many wishing to re-orchestrate in their minds, films like Pretty Woman to become Feminist staples. Tales of empowerment and chutzpah. As Edward and Vivian save each other atop the staircase, that leads up to her grotty pad, a local man crosses the street and declares, “Everybody who comes to Hollywood got’a dream, Wass your dream? Wass your dream?”

And with it seemingly so out of reach, it is easier to pretend we are already living it.


 

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Review: Fatal Attraction

 

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Fatal Attraction

Glenn Close made it clear that she was not happy with the denouement of Fatal Attraction. The film, she argued, has done a disservice to the image of those suffering with mental health issues, portraying as it does, a hyperbolic narrative of a near demonic, sex crazed lunatic who throws herself into full scale mania, after a one weekend encounter with the decidedly average family man, Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas). Perhaps more specifically, it has perpetuated the mythology of the psychotic women who, so unbalanced by her own sexuality, is willing to set in motion actions that would potentially destroy her own existence. Simply after a few fumbles with a character predominately  constructed out of prosaic vapidity: otherwise known as, The Most Boring Man Who Ever Lived. All apart from anything else, all these years on, this controversial pot boiler just seems pretty unrealistic, to the point of carnivalesque absurdity.

Mr Gallagher is a successful lawyer married to a beautiful, devoted house maintainer, Beth (Anne Archer), father to a six year old girl, and walker to a docile, old dog. His personality, his life, his family, yes, even the dog, are all pretty beige and benign. Devoid of any hard edges, darling Beth is even shot in hazy focus, her loveliness and the loveliness she represents going so far as to soften the film reel. Anyone wishing to tip poison onto this domestic bliss would surely be evil indeed.

However, bliss must dull the senses, because our mate Dan, is not especially resistant to outside temptation. Whilst Beth is away for the weekend he encounters Alex Forrest (Close), a seductive publishing agent seeking to produce a novel about a women’s affair with a married politician. The writing is very much on the wall. As a lawyer, Dan’s assistance is required to defend the novel against an accusation from a real life politician that the story is based on his own affair that would, if published, destroy his career. Dan, with soft shouldered nonchalance, agrees to take on the case.

As has been established, Dan has a nice family life, but all the backbone of boiled spaghetti; clearly disassociation is required when considering the destruction of lives lived ‘over there’. Even his own wife’s, as is evidenced by the fact that after his meeting with Alex, he quite casually goes with her for a romantic dinner, followed by a brief, intense, sexual affair. Later he trundles home, displaying all the ambivalence and guilt of a cat slaying a mouse. Until, of course, the phone rings, and Alex makes her first invasion into  his cosy, marital home. Henceforth, their former jocular relationship, devolves into a stalking attack, with Alex being inflated into an obsessive Beelzebub gagging for a romantic clench hold onto this morally disengaged, ‘Every Man’.

What might have been a nuanced socio-cultural drama about infidelity and moral responsibility, turns into a horror story of operatic proportions. It is possible to enjoy the film in this vein; to delight in the unlikelihood of this previously successful women losing her rag after such a brief encounter, to such an unremarkable man. To scoff at the obnoxiousness of a narrative that permits his almost entire moral absolution, so enthused is the spectator to find the devil, not at home, but out amidst the deep blue sea. But really it is just a bad film, playing into some fairly weather worn anxieties about female desire and proliferating the conservative notion of the siren on the rocks. And perhaps therein lies the nub of this masculinist masochistic fantasy; what perverted bliss is it to be so unremarkable, yet to be so badly, so destructively desired?


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