Self-Esteem and Body Image
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 3 Stars
Rosemary has a pretty poor self-image, and at times it seems she doesn’t even believe that she’s worthy of Hal’s love. She has however, come to terms with her over-sized body and doesn’t hesitate to tell Hal off when she thinks that he’s mocking her or being cruel. If the film had spent more time developing Rosemary’s personal life and accomplishments, she might have had some foundation for a stronger sense-of-self, but unfortunately, she’s as concentrated on her size as everyone else is.
Shallow Hal takes on the difficult challenge of convincing viewers that inner beauty is more important than appearances. It does so by showing us that a 300-pound woman who is either ignored or abused as she walks down the street is also one of the most beautiful women in the world. Shallow Hal is a unique re-telling of the traditional beauty and the beast story, in which the woman, rather than the man, is the unsightly creature looking for love. And it is Hal, a portly and superficial cad, who must see beyond Rosemary’s exterior. But unlike beauty and the beast, there is no magic spell that transforms Rosemary at the end. Hal’s love won’t make her beautiful. He needs to accept her as she is and commit to loving her regardless. Even if the execution of this concept is a bit sloppy and under-developed, as a whole, the idea is endearing and the ending is triumphant.
Love: 3.5 Stars
Hal and Rosemary have a very pleasant, though somewhat superficial romance. Most of the film is dedicated to predictable jokes about Hal’s mis-perceptions. His private time with Rosemary takes place off screen, and as a result, we never really see them building memories together and falling in love.
It’s hard to imagine that he and Rosemary can be honestly and completely in love when Hal's hypnosis prevents so much real communication. Rosemary is never able to vent to him, for example, about the pain of being overweight. Hal repeatedly dismisses her experiences and gushes over how gorgeous she is.
Hal also continues to hit on every attractive woman that he meets, and at some point, it's fair to question how deep his commitment to Rosemary truly is. He doesn't even offer Mauricio any specific things that he loves about her, like her jokes or her laughter.
But putting some of these practical questions aside, the film does send a positive message regarding what love should truly be about. Shallow Hal could certainly have been a more convincing film, but for those that don’t expect much depth or consistency from their romantic comedies, Shallow Hal fits the bill.
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Women
Gender Roles – Men
Language and Sexual Content
Gender Roles - Women: 1.5 Stars
Rosemary is a kind and caring woman, but she's also a somewhat vague and shapeless character. Whether she is slim and beautiful or grossly overweight, the film focuses almost exclusively on her appearance. As a result, we don’t see much personal strength from Rosemary. To some degree, she seems content to hide her personality behind her weight, never really revealing that true beauty that Hal has stumbled upon. Although Rosemary is a kind and remarkable woman, she appears to be surviving her life, rather than living it.
Gender Roles - Men: 2 Stars
As the title suggests, Hal is initially a pretty shallow character. He only pursues women who are clearly out of his league and even finds flaws in the beautiful women he lusts after. He doesn’t take into account these women’s interests, goals or other personality traits until he’s placed under a hypnotist’s spell and meets Rosemary.
What’s unfortunate about Hal is that even after he’s been hypnotized, he remains attracted only to women’s physical features. He’s initially drawn to Rosemary, not because she’s smart or funny, but because he now sees her as a knockout. Over time he comes to the uncomfortable realization that he’s fallen in love with Rosemary, but the film does a poor job of showing us when or how this miraculous change occurred. In the end, Hal choses to stay with Rosemary even when he sees her as she truly is, but too little time is spent on his transformation for it to be 100% convincing.
Plot: .5 Star
There’s very little in the plot of this story for Rosemary. She doesn’t have any bold aspirations or even any impressive dialogue. Despite her size, she’s still little more than the prize that Hal is after. She’s simply a lovely woman, trapped in a 300-pound body, waiting for the kiss of a handsome prince – or in this case, a not-so-handsome Hal, to make her whole and happy.
Character Development: 3 Stars
Rosemary’s character is never developed beyond the basics. She works with young children with unsightly burns and has even served in the Peace Corps - facts that tell us she’s lead an interesting life with engaging stories to tell. But we aren’t given any of those stories. The hospital and the Peace Corps are included as short-hand for showing us that Rosemary’s a kind person, but there’s no real substance to her experiences. Shallow Hal could’ve given us some insight into how Rosemary deals with the stares and the jokes. Or how she adjusts to the sudden attention from Hal and suddenly being treated like a regular person. She might have even struggled with the idea of trusting Hal, considering the fact that he works for her father and could have been using her to get ahead at work. But we don’t know much about what Rosemary is thinking or feeling, or even what it is that attracts her to Hal.
Language and Sexual Content: 2 Stars
Shallow Hal loses some points for the crude way that Mauricio refers to large women, calling them hippos, rhinos and other cruel terms. Hal objects to Mauricio’s comments only because he sees strikingly beautiful women in their place, not because of the insensitivity or cruelty in the comments. In short, Hal’s hypnosis might have taught him something about the inner beauty of one specific woman, but the film falls flat in terms of delivering a broader message about how to treat overweight or unattractive people in general.
Friendship: 3 Stars
Hal’s relationship with Mauricio is mostly superficial and obnoxious. Both men are unattractive themselves and yet they are exceedingly critical of women’s imperfections. Rather than offering each other some hard truths about what to look for in a relationship or what’s truly important, they encourage each other’s ridiculous notions of intimacy. Towards the end of the film, Hal explains to Mauricio what he'd found with Rosemary, but he only speaks about how attractive she was to him under the hypnosis. He never mentions love or the things that he misses about her. In turn, Mauricio also opens up about his own awkward body and his fears of not finding someone who will love him. But these short scenes are a bit too forced and not quite enough to convince us that Hal and Mauricio have a deeper, more meaningful friendship.
Hal is anxious to fall in love with the woman of his dreams, but he’s only interested in dating attractive women. Hal’s shallow standards are likely to keep him from happiness forever, until a helpful stranger puts him under a strange hypnosis. From that point forward, Hal can only see the inner beauty in everyone around him. With his focus on external beauty out of the way, Hal meets and falls in love with Rosemary, a 300 pound woman who is thin and beautiful in Hal’s eyes. But when Hal’s friend Mauricio finds a way to reverse the hypnosis, Hal is forced to choose what is more important, love or beauty.
Kelly is a labor law