An analysis of the opening sequence
of “Pretty Woman."
Written for an A level Media studies
Pretty Woman is an American romantic comedy motion picture that was one of the top films at the box office in 1990. The title character, a prostitute named Vivian Ward, was played by Julia Roberts, who received a Golden Globe award for her role. She was also nominated for an Academy Award, Best Actress.
The male title character is a businessman Edward Lewis who is played by Richard Gere. While ruthless in business he is an Asset striper.
Pretty Woman is the highest-grossing film of the romantic comedy genre, and probably the most well-known. Set in Hollywood during the 1990s, its themes include the tension between romantic love and social class: the main characters are complete opposites in social class and money, while both working in occupations which do absolutely nothing for the environment they live in.
The sequence itself runs for approximately 13 minutes. It is preceded by the name of the company which produced the motion picture, Touchstone pictures. The opening shot is a close up of 3 palms which all have what seems to be money and the first words uttered in the entire movie are “It’s all about the money.” Straight away the theme of money is established. The camera then zooms out and follows Edward’s lawyer Philip. Philip begins to suck up all the glory for the party. The viewer can already notice even after a few seconds that he is going to be a very devious and selfish character.
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This establishing shot then cuts to a medium shot of Edward on the phone to his girlfriend. They have an argument and come to a mutual agreement to end the relationship. This points one of Edward’s flaws as a person. He seems to be a very busy man and one who is not very good with relationships. Afterwards Edward heads downstairs where once again in a medium shot he is seen greeting and talking with guests at his party in a very friendly mood.
The camera zooms out to a full shot and Edward is seen leaving his party.
He then takes the keys to his lawyers car but Philip is not pleased about this and begins trying to get Edward to take the limousine instead. A sense of comedy is now introduced to the movie. There are close ups of both Edward and Philip’s faces with one’s face very calm and joyous and another very stressed and worried.
Edward drives off and slowly the camera zooms out into a low angle crane shot following the car and as He comes to a corner Edward stops and says “Shit” because he is going the wrong way. Then finally continues on and eventually the camera cuts to a bird’s eye extreme long shot of Hollywood at night.
Nearby, in a small hotel an alarm clock goes off. This established shot cuts to a close up of a shapely pair of thighs, they turns to reveal black lacy panties and a red T-shirt on the upper half of the girl’s body. An arm stretches out from the bed silencing the alarm at five to nine. Around her a few torn snapshots of herself with different men. Their faces have been scratched out. The girl eases on a stretchy cream top, attached by a metal ring to a short blue skirt. Whilst the girl is only glimpsed partially as if in a peep show. This is Vivian waking up at a peculiar time. Obviously viewers see straight away that Vivian is not getting ready to go to any ordinary job. She’s a prostitute. Constant extreme close ups of her eyes and mouth appear as the camera cuts from one shot to another.
Vivian tries to leave her apartment when she sees the land lord she then takes a u-turn and goes the back way out to try avoid paying her rent. Once again the issue of money pops up. The camera cuts to a long shot and Vivian is climbing down a ladder. This is very ironic as this is also how the movie ends with Vivian being rescued on a ladder.
At the end of the sequence the last words you hear are “Welcome to Hollywood the city of dreams. Excuse me what’s your dream.” It’s clear that at some point in this movie dreams are going to come true like a classic fairytale.
There are a lot of similarities between Vivian an Edward’s opening sequences. For example both of them seem to have relationship problems. With Edward it is him braking up with his girlfriend but with Vivian it is all the pictures on her wall with faces cut out.
Also they both seem to be staying in the top rooms of their apartments or offices.
Lastly most obviously they are both escaping from someone e.g. Vivian running away from land lord and Edward running away from his lawyer.
Their characters are also very similar as later in the movie Edward points out how very similar their occupations are. He says “We both screw people for money!”
The music also plays an important part in the opening sequence.
At the end of Edward’s opening sequence the song “King of wishful thinking” is playing in the background whilst he is driving. It seems to be a kind of cheering song as he has just broken up with his girlfriend. It says the message that “I will get over you…”
During Vivian’s opening scene the song “Wild women do” is playing also in the background. It seems to just show how Vivian is not really like an ordinary woman and that she is very adventurous, uncontrollable and wild.