Making the Grades
Although a minister, Hal's dad (who had been prescribed morphine to ease his dying moments) expressed his last words frankly and crudely, advising his son to find a woman with "perfect" anatomical qualities (unlike Mom).
Years later, Hal (Jack Black) and his best friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander) spend endless evenings roaming nightclubs looking for those perfect females. Never able to recognize the shallowness of their desires (and hardly realizing their own bodies fall somewhat short of physical flawlessness), Hal and Mauricio sift through a bevy of beautiful babes who offer repeated rejections.
But a fated elevator ride changes Hal's life forever. Stuck between floors with self-esteem guru Anthony Robbins (playing himself), their extended discussion ends with Anthony providing a dose of hypnotic suggestion that leaves Hal with an entirely new perspective. Now his eyes will see the inner beauty people posses as opposed to their outward appearance. Within days, Hal is dating Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow) who, from Hal's new viewpoint, is a knockout. Yet Mauricio, who sees the Rosemary everyone sees, tries to convince Hal that she's twice the woman he thinks she is.
And for that matter, Shallow Hal is twice the movie I was expecting. Given the infamous reputation of the Farrelly Brothers (responsible for such notables as Dumb And Dumber, Kingpin, and There's Something About Mary), the fact that I left the theater profoundly moved was a tremendous feat. This film holds a strong and sensitive statement regarding our impulse to judge people based on appearances alone. Further, it goes beyond the issues of obese females--although that is definitely the core of the story.
Sadly, parents wanting to share this meaningful experience with their teens (it's not suitable for young children), will discover the real fat that needs trimming are the many sexual innuendos, crude anatomical comments, profanities, and a scene where a woman disrobes (seen from behind) before getting in bed with a man. Just as Robbins suggests that Hal seek the inner-beauty, audiences will have to decide if it is worth looking past the excessive vulgarities to find the commendable message wrapped inside Shallow Hal.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Shallow Hal.
By the end of the movie, you realize there are many people Hal views in a manner different than their actual appearance. Why did he not see Rosemary’s dad in a distorted way? What about his neighbor across the hall?
Could this movie have been just as effective if we would have seen Rosemary from Mauricio’s perspective? Why or why not? What type of anticipation do the creators achieve by not revealing her true outward appearance until the end? How did you react to the “real” Rosemary?
Has there ever been a time when you have misjudged someone based on appearance? What efforts can we make to correct our inherent desire to do this?