Is personal growth at the heart of the formula for a successful romantic comedy? With growth comes the reward – for a man, love; for a woman, a man’s money.
How about this one: His father died last month. They hadn’t spoken for fourteen and a half years. One of his first corporate take-overs was the company where his father had been president; he broke it up and sold it off. Yes, this is Pretty Woman, and he is Edward Lewis (Richard Gere). Lewis has to exorcise the ghost of his father. And he has to allow his emotions into his business deals. If he can do the latter, he will manage the former too.
Falling in love allows him to do this and leads him to the “right” decision. So Mr. Morse (Ralph Bellamy), becomes a surrogate father (in the end he’ll say “I’m proud of you”), Lewis finally knows he can “let someone in”, and he conquers his fear of heights, which seems to have been thrown in there in case the other two things weren’t obvious enough.
Lewis had three issues to resolve, and love was the answer to all of them. Part of the reason J.F. Lawton’s script worked – apart from the star power – was that you could perceive some depth if you wanted to.
The film is not just satisfying because the hooker and the businessman are saved (“You and I are such similar creatures Vivian, we both screw people for money”), but because underlying the story is one of the fundamental prejudices of the artistic world: the strong dislike for people involved in business, and in particular, for businessmen. The same goes for lawyers, ad men, politicians, anyone who forgets their wife’s birthday and misses their kid’s school play on the same day.
The trajectory of growth for a businessman must always be the same: he must realise he has his priorities wrong. He can do this while still remaining in business, but at the extreme end of the idea is our desire that he fly into the sunset never to touch another deal (maybe he’s intent on becoming a philanthropist).
The question is, why does this resonate so much?