is the iconic 1990 rom-com starring and as romantic love interests. Although the premise of a wealthy entrepreneur falling for an escort is famously unrealistic, the chemistry between the leads is unforgettable, with slick comedy keeping the film moving, and fantastic acting. It must also be noted that for the most part, it features a mostly open-minded and accepting presentation of sex work for its time. Despite Roberts' character Vivian's eventual departure from the profession (which is simplistically and perhaps narrow-mindedly presented as being a better life choice for her), the film does not shame her for being a prostitute per se. Considered as being paramount among the classic rom-com genre and even spawning a Broadway musical, it has had a huge cultural impact. Although has not always been loved by critics, the rom-com , which was released almost a decade later in 1999 and also stars Roberts and Gere, was not nearly as beloved by audiences, despite also being directed by the late rom-com great, .
With two similar rom-coms to bookend the decade which defined the rom-com, it seems a wasted opportunity that the Roberts-Gere-Marshall rom-com era couldn't end on a high. Although is a mostly competent rom-com with many enjoyable moments, it failed to capture the spark that did so effortlessly.
In both films, Richard Gere is the cynical, driven professional; Julia Roberts is the free spirit who changes his life. The plots both follow a similar line of unlikely and unexpected love, with the lead characters learning along the journey; Gere's characters become more tender and vulnerable, whilst Roberts' characters develop more self-belief and ambition. Some of the same actors even appear in both movies including Hector Elizondo and Larry Miller, who were both in as also directed by Garry Marshall, reinforcing the feeling of a Marshall rom-com universe. Furthermore, both films feature Gere saving Roberts from rude shop assistants, and Roberts knowing more than Gere about how cars work, triggering the first flickers of their romance. However, these similarities are mostly surface-level and do not serve as magic ingredients for . employs better pacing, which makes the romance between the two seem to develop more organically, and also has stronger characterizations and writing, leading to a more fulfilling conclusion.
portrays the emotional journey and enchanting relationship which grows between Vivian Ward (Roberts), a sex worker, and Edward Lewis (Gere), a coldly shrewd business owner. At the start of the movie, he is married to his work, with ex-partners inferring that they were closer to his secretary than him. His business practice is largely unethical, and he has difficulty being vulnerable and expressing his emotions even outside of work. Vivian, meanwhile, is adrift in life, and although she is more open to embodying her emotions, she hasn't allowed herself to have confidence in her dreams. They gradually meet in the middle, with Vivian undertaking a or type of transformation. She represents the fun and kindness which he is sorely in need of; he represents the American dream she had never thought could be hers. Throughout the movie, we see her gradually breaking down his walls with her addictive childlike curiosity and enthusiasm. They balance and bring depth to one another, so their connection feels genuine and seems to build fluidly.
On the other hand, despite the similar opposites-attract dynamic between Roberts and Gere in , their relationship is a little less believable. Gere, as journalist Ike Graham, sets the story in motion by writing an insulting (and ) article about Roberts' character Maggie Carpenter, the infamous runaway bride he has heard about. Having left three men at the altar, and engaged again, she is constantly ridiculed (albeit in good humor) by the residents of her small town for never following through with a wedding. Ike is no exception to this; when he seeks her out to redeem his reputation which was marred by his own slanderous claims, he mercilessly teases her in front of her friends and family, who are surprisingly won over by this arrogant act. Although Gere's acting brings charisma to his character, Ike nonetheless rudely inserts himself into Maggie's life, interviewing everyone she is close to, and incessantly turning up everywhere she goes. Some of these actions are part of being a journalist, but Ike derives unkind pleasure from tormenting the woman who got him fired.
Therefore, despite gradually starting to show vulnerability and kindness, when he slowly realizes that she is not the "maneater" he (again being sexist) initially had her pegged as, Ike and Maggie's romance seems more forced than that in . After one kiss, which triggers her then-fiance to leave, Ike impulsively suggests that she marry him instead. Of course, it wouldn't be called without Maggie leaving Ike at the altar too, which does create a neatly cyclical structure. However, there is less of a satisfying pay-off when they do finally unite for good, as his character behaved so awfully to her in the beginning.
Another reason that overshadowed so effortlessly was due to the sharp writing which informed some iconic scenes. The is instantly recognizable, a moment which was pre-planned without Roberts' prior knowledge, whereby Gere shut the box suddenly whilst she gazed at the necklace inside, which prompted her very genuine and endearing laugh of shock. This is almost matched by Vivian telling the dismissive staff at the fancy Rodeo Drive store that they made a "Big mistake. Big. Huge," when they previously treated her with disdain when she came to the store wearing an outfit from her sex work. Moreover, throughout the film, Edward tells Vivian to "stop fidgeting," and "don't fidget," which acts as a running joke highlighting the developing comfortable closeness between the two. These stellar lines of dialogue and acting choices among many others in the film combine to create a wholly engaging and memorable movie.
Whilst has its clever moments, including the motif whereby Maggie always adopts her partner's preferred style of eggs which reflects her loss of self, the dialogue isn't as snappy as in , many jokes are unclear and fall flat, and it is peopled with too many characters which become forgettable. With stilted pacing, and a less believable romance between Maggie and Ike (who in one particularly despicable episode looks at a topless photo of her against her wishes), the two talented leads cannot elevate this film beyond 's shadow. Being more obviously formulaic, but less precise in its execution (like the unclear jokes peppered throughout which muddy the humor), it is often predictable and sometimes banal. The main saving grace to its storyline is that both Maggie and Ike grow to become more well-rounded, fulfilled people by the end, and the film also includes some stunning cinematography featuring autumnal scenes of Maryland. Overall, however, the similarities it shares with serve as unfortunate reminders of the cult hit that it didn't live up to.
Whilst it is true that , she expertly captured audiences' imaginations and hearts in with her joyful yet scrappy portrayal of Vivian, combining toughness and tenderness with ease. Her romance with Richard Gere is more enjoyable and fully fleshed out in this celebrated rom-com, and the two are more likable as characters. Overall, outshines , remaining an iconic work of Julia Roberts, and consolidating Richard Gere's capability as romantic lead.