The Poppy-Fields Movie Couch Of Fame: Pretty Woman
A hooker with a heart of poppies.
Today's submission comes from Emily Z.
I was shocked — shocked! — to discover that the very first Poppy Fields Hall of Fame award hadn't gone to what I think is the ultimate exemplar of this category: Pretty Woman. And in fact, I think this movie reveals your criteria are somehow lacking, as while it doesn't score highly on many of them, it is to me the ne-plus-ultra irresistible cable movie.
- lengthy? 119 minutes, so I guess long enough.
- familiar/frequent? Seriously. I would wager that this has to be in the top ten most-frequently-played cable movies of all time.
- classic/award-winner? Classic, yes. In that it has entered the American lexicon. You can use the term Pretty Woman in conversation, not even in specific reference to the movie but in reference to the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold or modern-day-Cinderella concept, and everyone will know exactly what you mean. I hadn't realized it, and not that it matters, but Julia was nominated for an Oscar for this role.
- "Greetings, Professor Falken" (big payoff/long-shot victory a la WarGames)? Well…I guess maybe if you find that last balcony scene where he comes back for her a payoff…but I don't think it quite fits this category. ["I would argue it does. Readers' call." — SDB]
- "Wanna have a catch?" (Pavlovian tear-jerk; anything with dads opens the ducts for this guy)? Nope.
- quote-fest? Eh…I'm not a movie quoter, so hard for me to say.
- caper-ish or -adjacent camaraderie? Nope.
- "forget you, melon farmer" (you own it, but will still watch bowdlerized TV verzh) Absolutely. No matter how much cable butchers it, or how many commercial breaks they add, I can't turn away.
So I think part of what makes this movie so PFMish is its "redemptive narrative"…many movies I get sucked into have some element of this (from the obvious with The Green Mile, to the less obvious but still in there with Grease)… And it is often extra successfully paired with romance (oh, that great redeemer). Here we get a two-for one — Edward's hardened heart is redeemed by love, and Vivian is of course redeemed out of her life of sin.
But even still — just that alone doesn't explain this movie's power. Is it their chemistry? I don't know. All I know is just give me five minutes, and I've lost the next two hours.
Thanks, Emily! And before I address PW's merits, a note about the criteria: they're really just guidelines, things I noticed that Poppy-Fields Movies tend to have that nevertheless may not explain a given movie's power to becalm. And that's why we nominate instead of writing an algorithm. (Although if somebody wants to do that, I'd be keen to see how/whether it worked.)
So: Pretty Woman. This really did used to be on cable somewhere pretty much all the time. You don't see it as often anymore, I don't feel like — and when you did, it was for me not a grabber. Julia Roberts is one of those actors we tend to see in PFMs (see also: Keanu; Hanks), and I liked the movie when I saw it; I have friends who have seen it a gazillion times, so I've seen it a few dozen, but do I need to have seen it more than once? Not really.
That said, 1) I totally get it and vote in the affirmative even though it doesn't poppy me personally, and 2) it is that rare flower, a Poppy-Fields Movie mentioned as such in a Poppy-Fields Movie of my own, Romy and Michele's ("they won't let her shop!").
As for the quotables, I can't remember any quotes offhand — but it has a handful of iconic shots that get visually quoted in other movies, montages devoted to how great Hollywood is at the Oscars, and so on. The jewelry box snapping shut and Roberts horse-laughing all "ack! …good one" is a timeless bit. And I really like Emily's larger PFM point about redemption narratives, and whether those resonate more strongly for rewatchability. (I also wonder whether we shouldn't add a soundtrack/score criterion. Thoughts welcome.)
Can I dial past Pretty Woman? I can. Do I think it deserves a cushion? I do. Readers, come out on the fire escape and tell us what's what.
[Updated 7/20/15: In there easily.]
The Poppy-Fields Movie Couch Of Fame is here. To nominate your own PFM, email bunting at tomatonation dot com with a rundown of the criteria and your argument for why it deserves a cushion. If I use your entry, free loot shall be thine.
Tags: Julia Roberts movies poppy-fields movies Pretty Woman Richard Gere