Pretty Woman has been a popular love story that still holds up after its 20+ year history. It also made Julia Roberts a major star (she was nominated for an Oscar® and won the Golden Globe®), and resurrected Richard Gere’s career once again.
ACT I: DEPARTURE
The first act opens with Edward picking up Vivian on Hollywood Blvd., initially for help to get to his Beverly Hills hotel, then, to be his escort for the night. This is the home world for both of them – she as a hooker and he as a ladies’ man. While their meeting each other is fresh, the place in which they find themselves – and the roles they play – are routine and familiar. Then something happens and he becomes smitten by her.
The act ends at the turning point when he asks her to stay with him for the week. The negotiated sum is $3,000, and “3000” was the working title of the script (the actual title wasn’t used until the rights to the Roy Orbison song of the same name was secured). Now, the rules have changed and they are both in uncharted waters as they move forward together.
Initial refusal of the call..
…then she accepts the invitation
In this act, we see the differences – and similarities – of Edward and Vivian’s respective profession. Clearly, they are from different sides of the tracks, but in essence, they both make a living by “screwing people for money.” It is this dynamic that plays out throughout the movie: the similarities help them relate to each other, and their differences inspire them to be more than they are. He needs to be more relaxed and enjoy simple things in life; she needs refinement and self-esteem.
Metaphysically, this relates to the Yin/Yang attraction of the opposites, and in Jungian psychology, the Anima and Animus, which are the female aspect in males and the male aspect in females, respectively.
ACT II: INITIATION
Right after they agree to spend the week together, she in thrown into a strange land of opulence and snobbery, as experienced in the difficulty she faces with shopping on Rodeo Drive, and her complete ignorance with fine dining (which fork do I use?). This union also puts Edward in a situation that is unfamiliar. While he doesn’t recognize it at first, his lawyer, Stuckey, suspects that Edward is somehow influenced by this girl in his life, as he notices changes in his behaivor.
Barney, the hotel manager, while initially dismayed by Vivian’s presence there, becomes her Mentor, and helps her get more elegant clothes and shepherds her through the protocols involved with a dining at a five-star restaurant. Later, Edward states he won’t let himself become emotionally involved in business, to which Vivian agrees, which is why she won’t kiss a client on the mouth. Clearly this is a set-up for things to come.
Symbolically, the number 88 is used twice in the second act – first, unspoken by the 88 keys on the piano he plays, and second, when she tells him in the bathtub that her legs are 44 inches long each, and that he has 88 inches of legs wrapped around him.