SHALLOW HAL. 2001. DIRECTED BY BOBBY FARRELLY AND PETER FARRELLY. STARRING JACK BLACK, GWYNETH PALTROW, JASON ALEXANDER, JOE VITERELLI, TONY ROBBINS AND SUSAN WARD. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I’m kind of conflicted about this film. On the one hand, it’s pretty funny at times. There are easily four or five quite funny lines in it. Then, on the other hand, the messages it sends out are so skewed that there were times when I was just watching it with my mouth literally hanging open with shock.
It’s not that the film is politically incorrect. I actually adore politically incorrect TV shows like FAMILY GUY, SOUTH PARK and AMERICAN DAD. It’s more that the film is wrong, as in factually incorrect, in some of the things it says. All fat people are beautiful on the inside. Ditto, ugly people. All beautiful folks are horrible people and ugly as sin on the inside. It’s just too much of an outrageous generalisation, that’s all I’m saying, to make these sweeping statements. You can’t make them if you have no proof! Jeez.
Before we get all het up about the rights and wrongs of the movie, let’s have a quick overview of the plot. The titular Hal, well played by Jack Black, only chooses to hanker after physically beautiful women. He’s shallow, in other words. It’s not entirely his fault. He’s only following the advice his dying father gave him years ago when he was a child. When Hal was a child, that is, not the dying father.
A chance encounter with a self-help guru in an elevator changes Hal’s life forever. The guru hypnotises Hal into only seeing womens’ inner beauty. In other words, from then on Hal would see a plain or ugly woman as beautiful if she has inner beauty, see…? It’s not rocket science, haha.
Enter Gwyneth Paltrow as Rosemary Shanahan, the daughter of Hal’s ‘Oirish’ boss. FYI, Mr. Shanahan has the worst ‘Oirish’ accent O’ive ever heard, and Oi should know, as O’im Oirish meself, to be sure, to be sure. Anyway, Rosemary is not exactly skinny. In fact, she’s pretty darn hefty.
Hal however, under the influence of the guru’s ‘spell,’ only sees her as the gorgeous woman she is on the inside. He sees the real Gwyneth Paltrow, in other words, haha. He falls head-over-heels in love straightaway. Rosemary too is thrilled to have found what is only her second ever boyfriend, although she’s puzzled as to why Hal keeps referring to her as attractive when she knows that she’s the size of a small hippopotamus.
Things go along reasonably well for the pair until Hal’s friend Mauricio, the one with the tail- yeah, that’s right, I said tail, wuff wuff- decides that Hal needs to be jolted back into the real world and made to see that Rosemary is, well, not as easy on the eye as she appears to be to Hal’s altered senses. Mauricio gets the guru to reverse the spell. Now that Hal can see Rosemary as she really is, can there possibly be any future for their relationship…?
It’s all up to Hal, folks. If he can manage to see past appearances to Rosemary’s inner pulchritude (I just felt like I’d been saying beauty a lot), then the job’s oxo and Bob’s your uncle. That means everything’s hunky-dory, by the way. But if he can’t see past her weight, well then, that’s a different story. You’ll only find out which option he goes for by watching the movie, folks. This is a (relatively) spoiler-free zone.
I normally think that Gwyneth Paltrow’s a bit cold and wooden as an actress, but she’s actually really good in this. In her gorgeous little pink outfits, she’s warm and sweet and approachable-seeming and you end up rooting for her character totally and wanting things to work out well for her. Jack Black is always pretty great in everything he does, and Jason Alexander does a good job as Hal’s best mate Mauricio. He’s been in FRIENDS and MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE as well, just to let you guys know in case you recognise him from other stuff.
I like this film but most people nowadays will probably feel a bit uncomfortable at the message it sends out. Hal loves Rosemary despite the fact that she’s fat? What, should Rosemary be grateful for this? Should all fat people be grateful? Jeez Louise. Quite honestly, I don’t think you could make a film like this these days. Better enjoy SHALLOW HAL for the anachronism it is, then. It means well, after all. It just seems to get a tiny bit lost along the way…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA: AN EROTIC HORROR NOVELLA.