Tony Robbins: No, I de-hypnotized him. He’s been hypnotized his whole life. He’s been totally focused on the outside. I gave him the ability to see the inner beauty that’s in everyone including the people you think are not so physically attractive.
Hal Larson (Black) is a single guy with an unsatisfying dating life, due to the fact that — having been unconsciously traumatized by his father's death at age nine — he is one of the shallowest men in the world. Until one day when, trapped in an elevator with self-help guru Tony Robbins, he is unknowingly hypnotized so that, every time he meets someone new from that point onward, he will see their "inner beauty" instead of their real appearance. He meets a woman named Rosemary Shanahan (Paltrow) who, to him, looks like a beautiful, skinny woman because of her great inner beauty. In reality, however, she's morbidly obese.
This film provides examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Hal is this for Rosemary at the beginning of the movie, before she realizes that his feelings for her are sincere. She doesn't know he does it because he thinks she's thin.
- Accidental Kiss: No longer hypnotized and having never seen Rosemary in her true form, Hal mistakes the Shanahans' housemaid Helga for Rosemary and kisses this woman rather sloppily. Hilariously enough, Helga doesn't seem to mind.
- Aerith and Bob: Mauricio and Hal
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: A rare psychological variation involving nothing supernatural or Sci-Fi in nature, because of the effects of hypnosis on Hal. Because he is hypnotized, his mind presents Rosemary as a supermodel, when she is extremely obese.
- Appearance Is in the Eye of the Beholder: The main character can only see "inner beauty," so he sees people according to what they look like inside. He is attracted to Rosemary's inner beauty, and can't see her not-traditionally-attractive, overweight appearance. This holds true for several outwardly-ugly people in the film, including Ralph and the child burn victims in the hospital ward. It also holds true for the outwardly-hot woman his friend is dating, who appears as a not-traditionally-attractive old crone to Hal, because that's what she looks like inside. When the POV switches to another character, we see the "ugly" outward appearances through their eyes.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Hal wants the most beautiful women in the world to fall in love with him. He gets what he wanted... but what is beautiful for him is not beautiful for the people around him...
- Beauty Equals Goodness: The movie's premise inverts this. The better a person you are, the more attractive Hal perceives you as.
- Beauty Inversion: A number of beautiful actresses wore makeup to appear ugly outside of Hal's "Inner Beauty Vision". The directors especially took flack for casting a skinny actress like Paltrow as a fat woman, but explained that it was easier for Paltrow to fat up (with makeup and a fatsuit) than it was for a heavy actress to slim down.
- Betty and Veronica: Hal is Archie. Rosemary (Betty) is a fat, blonde, sweet and gentle woman, who dresses conservatively (before meeting Hal). Jill (Veronica) is an exotic, brunette, sensual woman, a little more rude and cold. Downplayed, though, because Jill is shown later in the movie to be a nice and pleasant person who simply objected to Hal's lechery and overt come-ons, and she makes a move on Hal after seeing what she believed was Character Development on his part in dating such a big girl (at this point, Hal is still hypnotized into seeing Rosemary as being thin). That said, the fact that Jill starts flirting with Hal while he's still dating Rosemary is a little... problematic. Anyway, Hal lets her down gently.
- Big Eater: Rosemary and Hal.Rosemary: I'll have a double pizza burger, chili fries, and a vanilla milkshake.Hal: Nicely done! I'll have the exact same thing.
- Big Damn Kiss: Hal and Rosemary at the end.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Jill seems to be a nice person for most of the movie, and it's hard to disagree with her reasons for rejecting Hal's amorous advances, considering how unpleasant he is to women at the beginning of the movie. However, from the moment Jill learns that Hal is dating Rosemary, she immediately flirts with him, even though she knows their relationship is serious. And when Hal is having trouble with Rosemary (after the hypnosis comes to an end) Jill not only appears conveniently to invite Hal to a date, she also tries to seduce him and even makes a comment about Rosemary that can be interpreted as mean (by saying that Hal's dating the obese Rosemary proves he is pathologically unshallow).
- Bittersweet Ending: Rosemary, still hurt from Hal's recent behavior and actions, plans on going away on a Peace Corps mission even after Hal pleads for her not to go. So he decides to go with her instead. Rosemary forgives him and the two go back to dating, leaving together as a couple.
- Brawn Hilda:
- Mauricio and Jill think that of Rosemary, having seen her true appearance.
- After Hal loses his Inner Beauty Vision, the rotund housemaid whom he initially mistakes for Rosemary is named Helga.
- Bridal Carry: Hal tries to do this to Rosemary at the end of the movie ... and fails miserably. She is the one who ends up carrying him.
- Broken Aesop: A film with an intended Aesop about how people should not be so shallow and judge people on the kind of person they are, not by how they look on the outside, but this loses some steam considering how many fat jokes it has at Rosemary's expense. Not to mention the amount of beautiful people who now appear ugly because of their horrible personality insinuates that it's okay to continue assuming that Beauty Is Bad.
- Chubby Chaser: Hal becomes one through hypnosis. Once the love goggles have been lifted, Hal realizes the object of his affection is beautiful. Also, twice his size. Various people doubt Hal's sincerity, but it doesn't seem to occur to anyone that he might be an entirely sincere Chubby Chaser ... mostly they think he's doing it to suck up to the boss of the company, who happens to be his new girlfriend's father.
- Contrived Coincidence: The movie is full of them, but the most prominent example is when Hal sees Rosemary for the first time (as slim-figured Gwyneth Paltrow, of course) walking into the clothing store, only to catch up with her and, after getting acquainted with her, later finding out she happens to be his boss's daughter.
- Cursed with Awesome: Basically, all the nicest and kindest people are identifiable on sight. Oh, and if you ever date one, they'll also be smoking hot.
- Cut a Slice, Take the Rest: Rosemary cuts off a "sliver" of a cake that's about as big as the whole cake, and walks off munching on it like a Pringles chip.
- Destructo-Nookie: In a deleted scene, after the first time Hal and Rosemary have sex, Hal wakes up the next morning and finds that the part of the bed where Rosemary slept is completely destroyed.
- Dirty Old Woman: Helga, the housemaid, seems to like Hal's kiss (who mistook her for Rosemary).
- Double Standard: Looking the way they do, Hal and Mauricio really shouldn't have such high expectations from women. Hal's coworkers ask him how he can act so shallow when he's "not that good-looking" himself. They both have legitimate Freudian Excuses for their hypocrisy, though.
- Fan Disservice: The few moments when Rosemary's real appearance appears before Hal is released from hypnosis are portrayed by the film as this.
- Fanservice: Gwyneth Paltrow, Susan Ward, Brooke Burns and other beautiful actress in scenes wearing dresses, short skirts, lingerie or bikinis, before Hal's hypnosis is undone. For Chubby Chasers, the moment when fat Rosemary appears in a bikini is also his.
- Fat Suit:
- Gwyneth Paltrow, though for most of the movie she appears skinny, and is played by a larger actress in below-the-face shots.
- Paltrow's characters mother also wears one at the end of the film.
- Five-Second Foreshadowing: There's a mirror in the shot behind the transgender hostess. It still shows her true appearance even when she's being played by a cis woman because of Hal's spell.
- Freakiness Shame: Turns out Mauricio has a tail.
- Freudian Excuse:
- Hal is shallow because of his father's dying words about appearance.
- Mauricio is shallow because of his vestigial tail, which shames him into avoiding meaningful relationships.
- Gaussian Girl: Inverted and Subverted. After Hal's hypnosis is worn off, he puts Vaseline on his eyes to so that he won't be able to see Rosemary clearly. His vision is so blurry, he can't tell if Rosemary is attractive (to him) or not.
- Gold Digger:
- This is why Nurse Tanya Peeler, who is actually young and pretty, looks like an old crone to Hal. She's dating his friend, Walt, solely because of his money, and even confesses to Rosemary that the timing of their relationship could not have been better, just after she had broken up with her boyfriend and just after he had sold his company and had all the time in the world to go shopping with her etc etc, which is really a fancy way of saying she can now mooch off of him.
- Subverted with Hal himself as people bad-mouth him about obviously trying to suck up to his boss by dating his obese daughter and Hal can't understand why that would cross their minds.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Downplayed. At the beginning of the movie, Jill, Hal's beautiful neighbor, rejects his interest in her, honestly admitting that she is not attracted to him and considers him shallow. A few days later, Jill catches Hal dancing with unattractive women and is surprised. And then she meets Hal's new girlfriend, Rosemary, and is clearly shocked. And then, after catching Rosemary leaving Hal's apartment after their first night of sex, she starts blatantly flirting with Hal, inviting him out even though she knows he's dating seriously. In the third act, she conveniently invites him on a date and then a night of love, as his relationship with Rosemary is in trouble. And though she's kind and polite, Jill makes a comment that can be interpreted as mean, by stating that she has seen the appearance of Hal's last girlfriends:Jill: I've been watching you in the past few weeks and i've seen the women you've been going out with. And now I know appearances mean absolutely nothing to you. lf anything, you're pathologically unshallow.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Rosemary is blond, kind and generous.
- Has a Type: Initially Hal constructs his ideal image of a woman from bits and pieces of celebrities.
- Heel–Face Brainwashing: All Hal thought was that Tony Robbins did something to help him "score better with the ladies." He had no idea that it literally changed his vision.
- Hypocrite: Jill initially rejects Hal's overtures, stating that she finds him shallow. However, after Hal starts dating unattractive girls and later starts dating the obese Rosemary, Jill is shocked and takes an interest in Hal, stating that she has concluded that he must be pathologically unshallow... However, this is still a mean and superficial comment about Rosemary.
- I Am Not Pretty: Hal doesn't understand why Rosemary is always deprecating her own looks, despite looking like Gwyneth Paltrow. He assumes she's doing this, then comes to believe that she has poor self-esteem because of her upbringing. In fact, he's been hypnotized into seeing her as thin, and she really weighs 300 lbs.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Rosemary is sweet, kind and always willing to help everyone around her.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Hal. Hal is sexist and superficial, but he's also a good person who cares about his friends.
- Mauricio could almost count too, given that he develops some depth as the film goes on.
- Jerkass Has a Point:
- Jill may have been cold and rude in rejecting Hal's invitation at the beginning of the film, but she's right to accuse him of being shallow.
- As abrasive as she might have been in dealing with the situation, Tanya (as the nurse actually responsible for managing that section of the children's hospital ward) had every right to object to a random stranger (Hal) coming in and interacting with the patients. Hal (at only Rosemary's invitation) literally comes in off the street, picking up and hugging random children, and even engages in a "kissing game" with them: this all is especially egregious with the later reveal that they are all in a Children's Burn Treatment unit, where infection is especially dangerous). In hindsight, Tanya was extremely patient in this circumstance!
- Jerkass Realization: After the breaking of his hypnotism, it's seeing the burned face of Cadence that inspires Hal to stop judging women by their looks and recoil with Rosemary.
- Literal Metaphor: When Hal describes Ralph as "Pretty Boy" to Rosemary while dining at a restaurant, he also alludes to the metaphorical halo around his head to reiterate how divinely handsome and good he is. But since Rosemary is unaware of Hal's hypnosis, she tells Hal that he's the first one to ever call Ralph that, and furthermore, she thinks the "halo" he's talking about is, in fact, the psoriasis around Ralph's head, and she even tells that to Hal directly.
- Love at First Sight: Hal when he meets Rosemary.
- Love Triangle: Hal is initially interested in his neighbor Jill, but she rejects him for finding him shallow. So he falls in love with Rosemary, and that's where Jill falls in love with Hal. She tries to win him over when Hal and Rosemary's romance has problems.
- Meaningful Echo: "Cuckoo!"
- Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Mauricio gives a practically perfect girl the cold shoulder, passing up an opportunity to see a Beatles reunion while George Harrison was still alive, ostensibly because one of her second toes is slightly longer than normal. Turns out however that it's because he's ashamed of his own elongated tailbone.
- Mistaken for Cheating: Played with. Hal does accept an invitation to dinner with former flame Jill (with her romantic intentions fully visible) while he and Rosemary are estranged, but still together. But when Jill turns up the gas and propositions Hal, he (after some consideration) refuses, finally realizing that he really wants to be with his "Rosie", regardless of her looks. But this realization comes to late, as Rosemary sees the two holding hands...
- Ms. Fanservice: Rosemary is played by Gwyneth Paltrow, and has several scenes wearing dresses, short skirts, lingerie or bikinis before Hal's hypnosis is undone.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Mauricio after he de-hypnotizes Hal. Made worse by the fact that he lied to Tony Robbins about Hal getting fired in order to get the words needed to break the hypnosis.
- Please, Don't Leave Me: Hal does this towards Rosemary at the end of the film. It doesn't work, though fortunately he had a backup plan, to simply go with her instead.
- The Reveal: Mauricio has a vestigial tail and he broke Hal's hypnosis out of jealousy of his happiness with Rosemary.
- Seinfeldian Conversation: Hal and Mauricio have one. Mauricio is George Costanza after all.Mauricio: I'm probably more immature than you, but at least I have a bigger willie.
Hal: Yeah, bigger than a mouse's.
Mauricio: What the hell was that?
Hal: I said your willie's—
Mauricio: I heard what you said, but it took you, like, eight seconds. You can't come back with a comeback after eight seconds. You got three. Five, tops. That's why they call it a "quip," not a "slooowwwwwp."
- Shout-Out: "Pop some bolts on her neck and the villagers would be chasing her."
- Stealth Insult:
Mauricio: (to Hal after he reverses the hypnosis) You weren't irresistible to women. He [Tony Robbins] hypnotized you so that really ugly girls that you met from then on would, to you, look like supermodels.
- The bulk of this movie serves to be a backhanded compliment to unattractive people, basically saying their inner beauty compensates for their outer ugliness.
- The exception to this trope, however, occurs during the scene with the little girl in the Pediatric Burn Unit at the hospital when Hal goes back the second time, looking for Rosemary. This is the defining moment in which he realizes that he doesn't need hypnosis to see the inner beauty in people.
- Even the tagline on the movie front cover comes across as this, as it says, "True love is worth the weight."
- Supernaturally-Validated Trans Person: The hypnosis that allows Hal to see people's true inner selves includes the transgender hostess, whom Hal recognizes as a beautiful woman (even if she's used for an Unsettling Gender-Reveal).
- Title Drop: "Shallow Hal wants a gal", the incantation Mauricio uses to break the hypnosis.
- True Love is Exceptional: The entire plot of the movie.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife:
- Hal believes he and Rosemary are this before the reveal.
- Mrs. Shanahan, though overweight, is still prettier than her husband.
- The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Subverted. Hal sees Rosemary as a slim attractive woman but in fact she resembles her father's figure very much.
- Unsettling Gender-Reveal: The hostess at the restaurant turns out to be a transgender person.
- Wham Shot: The hypnosis broken, Hal goes back to the hospital and sees Cadence... and she is horribly burned. He glances up and realizes that she was in the Pediatric Burn Unit the entire time.
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Invoked. An example where no Sci-Fi is involved, just hypnosis to get the aesop of "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and "Personality is beautiful" involved. While Rosemary's true form is not horrifying to look at, it's certainly not pretty, but not enough to be the usual Brown Note that this trope would get as a reaction.