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« Beauty vs Beast: Beauty & (Malkovich) Brains | Main | Cast This: Carole King Musical Headed to the Screen »
Monday
Mar232015

Pretty Woman at 25: An Ode to Julia’s Laugh

Manuel here to share my love for Julia Roberts on the 25th anniversary of that 1990 blockbuster, the movie that netted the star her second consecutive Oscar nomination.

Roberts is the first movie star I ever obsessed over. She was my American sweetheart even though I was nowhere near America and didn’t quite understand what being a “sweetheart” meant. All I knew was that her laugh was infectious, her smile gargantuan and her charm inescapable. This was most (if not all) in part to Pretty Woman. I cannot recall where or how I got to watch the film that made her a megawatt star (I was barely 4 when it came out so I was obviously a late convert) but years of cable reruns made Julia a staple of what here at the TFE would dub my budding actressexuality.

She would later win me over completely with My Best Friend’s Wedding and Erin Brockovich (not to mention my probably unhealthy obsession with Mike Nichol’s Closer) but Julia’s Vivian Ward is a thing of beauty. Yes, it’s a movie star turn in that Roberts’s charm papers over the dark undertones of film and character alike, but she’s so damn watchable. And has been ever since.

More...

And so, while the fascinating behind the scenes changes to Pretty Woman are juicy textbook examples of Hollywood productions sanding over prickly themes and storylines in favor of saccharine fairy tale heteronormativity, there’s no denying how accomplished a film Pretty Woman really is: it is a shining example of great movie star chemistry (I still hold out hope for a third Gere/Roberts pairing after the middling if still enjoyable Runaway Bride nine years later).

 

As of late, she may have given us a one-two punch of angry, embittered women in a row (with her next two projects unlikely to flash us her toothy smile) but time and time again I go back to Julia’s laugh and those two pivotal moments in Pretty Woman where her laughter fills the screen and sells the chemistry between her and Gere. The first, of course, is the I Love Lucy scene where Roberts’ near-maniacal laughs begin the not-so-long and not-so-drawn-out-process of breaking down business-minded Edward with her charm and her street-smarts. Allegedly, Gary Marshall had to tickle Julia throughout this scene to get the booming cackles we hear as Vivian watches Lucy stomp some grapes.

The other scene.

Well, the other scene is iconic: donning a beautiful red dress, Vivian is offered a beautiful necklace and as she’s about to examine it closely, Edward playfully snaps the jewelry box on her causing her to lose it. The shot was an outtake where Gere was improvising, but can you blame Marshall for committing Julia’s reaction to film?

Other actresses are great at making me cry, making me think, making me reflect, but few are as easily able to make me laugh as Julia. Whether she’s bitchily calling out Rodeo Drive shopping staff, or making snails fly out of her plate, Roberts’ effervescent on-screen persona - pretty much embalmed and emblazoned in Vivian Ward - is a cackle and a smirk, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And so, enjoy:

Pretty Woman Laughter Supercut from Manuel Betancourt on Vimeo.

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Reader Comments (20)

The last great movie star turn!

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLyndee

Wow with this and Madonna's Vogue celebrating 25 years I feel officially old. Roberts used her megawatt charm to carry a film whose gender politics were questionable at best. It's hard to think of a sleazier storyline in a mainstream rom-com hit than this one. The list of actresses who turned down this part is amazing, Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan, Mary Steenburgen??? What ?

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRami

Lyndee-I think our standards are too high if that's the last great movie star turn. Everyone from Emma Stone's Easy A to Russell Crowe's Gladiator could qualify since. Movie stars aren't what opens every picture anymore, but that doesn't mean we don't have them anymore.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

My favorite moment in this film is when she leaves the boutique after the hotel manager calls and sets her up with the store manager. She looks radiant, happy and so much more secure than before. Then she pops into the first boutique and calls them out. There is no malice in her actions, just joy and self respect. I think that is why we look past her "profession" and allow ourselves to go with her. If the character had an edge, we wouldn't buy it.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Definitely her career making moment and one of the last gr8 movie star turns,i have an obsession with her in Closer too,i stand by the Oscar nom too.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermark

that supercut is delightful. but MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING is her best performance :)

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This was such a 'Star is Born' type role/performance, and despite the backlash and naysayers, I shamelessly ADORE this performance...like SO MUCH!

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I think Molly Ringwald also turned this role down. Imagine what this would have done for her career.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I feel like such a bad actressexual for having never seen this movie -- not even in bits and pieces -- despite the fact that at one time it always seemed to be on television.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

So cool to see a romantic comedy where the woman gets to do a lot of the comedy while still being in control. Roberts' mix of goofiness, toughness and vulnerability was really refreshing.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

No, you're not bad, Troy. Your actressexuality would be much better served by checking out the other four Oscar-nominated performances that year, if you haven't already.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I loved her in CLOSER too! That is just a great film all around!!

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

Nat it would be a good time to do a Roberts career retrospective.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermark

If anyone listens to Pop Culture Happy Hour, they had a great discussion last week about celebrating anniversaries for things.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W.

Ahhh, I've always had such affection for Pretty Woman. I remember watching this in a sold out theater back in the day and it was undeniable that the woman at the center of this film was going to be a mega-star. I catch PW on cable from time to time and it makes me long for Julia in a romantic comedy again. Unfortunately I don't think Julia wants to go back to the genre...

In any event, her next "serious" projects look interesting. I'm excited to see her work with Nicole Kidman (provided they have scenes together) and the Jodie Foster directed reunion with Clooney sounds like a good match.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterStan

Update to my previous post: Yes, Julia and Nicole will have scenes together in the next film:

http://www.ew.com/article/2015/03/23/first-look-billy-ray-previews-his-secret-their-eyes-starring-julia-roberts

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterStan

The laugh that won the hearts of America. Julia Roberts is indeed a national treasure.

March 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

Great post. I actually fell in love with Julia Roberts with 'The Pelican Brief' -- I know it is not a great film and it is not a particularly remarkable performance from her, but her star charisma is there.

I am not a big fan of 'Pretty Woman', I think we all agree that it is neither her best comedy nor her best comedy performance (I rather prefer 'My best friend's wedding' and it is a pity that she did not receive an Oscar nomination for that), but it is true that it is a more than enjoyable and iconic film that anyone can watch multiple times. A true popular classic and a truly iconic performance. I have been thinking that it would be interesting if she performs another prostitute in this 'bitter-roles' stage of her career. Anyway, I am never tired of her. Well, maybe there is only one exception: I must admit that I found her performance in 'Runaway Bride' totally irritating. But I love you, Julia.

March 24, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbonobo

Roberts was the first American movie star I obsessed over also. I wrote a school paper about here the year MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING and CONSPIRACY THEORY came out. I owned I LOVE TROUBLE on VHS and watched PRETTY WOMAN too many times to mention. I was thrilled by THE PELICAN BRIEF and SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY in a trashy sort of way.

March 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

i so wish she used her twenties and thirties to take more risks because there were rough patches here and there when she was the absolute peak of her beauty when she did movies she had no business being in. but pretty woman was a great moviestar turn from a real moviestar. my best friend's wedding showed she is at her best playing her charm against real heartbreak and anger. closer showed that she is great in close ups. erin brockovich was her best performance. and i'm so happy that she is just starting to grow as an actress. here's hoping she doesn't stop taking risks.

March 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermcv

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