It's basically a meta movie about the Horrible Hollywood filmmakers who descend on a hapless town in Vermont and wreak various types of havoc.
This film contains examples of:
- Almost Kiss: This happens to Joe and Ann a few times (they get interrupted by a trooper, by townspeople), at least until the very end.
- Amoral Attorney: Marty
- Captain Obvious:Joe; How do I do a film called The Old Mill when I don't have an old mill?
Ann: Well, first, you gotta change the title.
- Chekhov's Gun: The producers send for an extra $800,000 to pay Claire to do the nude scene. After they re-work the script so she doesn't get naked after all, it turns out that no one remembered to cancel the money transfer, and it arrives, in cash, just as they're bemoaning what to do about the case against Bob. Said money then gets "left" in front of Doug right before the charges are dropped.
- Credits Gag: Several:Only 2 animals were harmed during the filming of this motion picture.A complete list of this film's associate producers is available upon written request.Actually, American Humane Association was on set to monitor the animal action... no animal was harmed in the making of this film.During the closing credits, after the end of the song, "The Song of the Old Mill", a fictional interviewer speaks to Howie Gold (played by Jonathan Katz) about the song. Gold says the song can no longer be called "The Song of the Old Mill", since the movie's title has been changed from The Old Mill to The Fires of Home.At the very end of the closing credits, immediately following a brief jazzy instrumental, a voice (David Mamet) says, "Once more, and can you try to play the notes this time."
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon:Marty: Either she follows her contract, or I'm gonna rip out your heart and piss on your lungs through the hole in your chest. ... And my best to Marion.
- Drunk Driver: Bob Barrenger
- The Ending Changes Everything: Joe White perjures himself in court and instantly regrets it. It turns out that the whole court scene was just a play designed by Ann to give him a chance to rethink his choice before the real court case begins.
- Ephebophile: Bob Barrenger.
- Everytown, America: Waterford, Vermont, for all intents and purposes.Walt: Marty, we got a new town. It's, uh...where are we?
Bill: Waterford, Vermont.
Walt: Waterford, Vermont. It's...where is it? That's where it is.
- Greek Chorus: The two farmers who wander the streets giving meta commentary.
- Hollywood Nuns: In-Universe in the Show Within a Show.
- Horrible Hollywood: The plot description.
- Intercourse with You: The closing credits Award-Bait Song, performed by Patti LuPone, includes the line, "The life was a sweet, old-fashioned dream and the memory lingers yet. / And I think of our hour by the old mill stream and I find that I'm still wet..."
- Karma Houdini: Bob Barrenger, again
- Mamet Speak: A lot of it, and yet surprisingly light on his signature Cluster F Bombs.
- Matzo Fever: Claire confesses this to Joe when she finds a box of matzo crackers in his room:Claire: I love Jewish men.Joe: Uh, why?Claire: You know.
- Meet Cute: Bookseller Ann meets Joe, the film's writer, when he comes to her shop to buy a typewriter and she recognizes a play that he wrote. Shortly afterward, she unceremoniously dumps her local politician fiancé.
- Noodle Incident: Several.
- A number of buildings were destroyed or damaged in "a spate of suspicious fires" in 1960. Hints that a disturbed teenager and arson were involved, but no details. Also, the fires were somehow the inspiration for the formation of the Waterford Huskies.
- At the high school, the writer notices that the Waterford Huskies have won the championship every year except for 1975 and there is a blank space for that year. A janitor walks up close to Joe to explain like it's some dark secret, but is interrupted by Walt's arrival before he gets a word out. The tie-in website Bazoomer.com teases an answer, promising the whole story if you follow a link. The link leads to a blank white page.
- The film crew has apparently been kicked out of New Hampshire (the entire state). No one is willing to talk (at least onscreen) about what happened there, though it's a good guess that it had something to do with Bob's taste in women.
- Not What It Looks Like: At first Joe goes to some length to keep Ann from finding out that a nude Claire is in his room (against his will), thinking that the trope will play out. Then when she suddenly walks back in and catches Claire, Joe immediately explains what's going on, and Ann believes him.Joe: Wait, you believe that?Ann: I do if you do.Joe: But it's insane!Ann: So's our electoral system but we still vote.
- Product Placement: The film within the film is an 1870s Oscar Bait historical drama, yet the website Bazoomer.com goes to great lengths to try to get product placement. In the end, they do.
- Right Behind Me: Walt's assistant is confused by Claire's sudden refusal to do a nude scene, as she's done so many before that "The whole country can draw her tits from memory." Then he realizes Claire is behind him, and worse, Walt had just talked her into doing the scene before she heard that.
- Running Gag: Ann ending every conversation with one of the townspeople with "Go, you Huskies!"
Joe: What's an associate producer credit?
- The townsfolk mentioning the pothole on Main Street to Doug, and the numerous times cars are seen driving over it.
- Also, Walt and Marty offering people an associate producer credit on the movie (see Credits Gag above):
Tommy: It's what you give to your secretary instead of a raise.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Marty pays off everybody to drop the charges against Bob Barrenger.
- Suit with Vested Interests: Doug, all over the place. He spends a lot of the movie obsessing over his political aspirations, and becomes a lot more eager to launch his statutory rape investigation against Bob Barrenger when it becomes clear that he can put the screws to Joe White (who his fiancée dumped him for). Any chance that he really is partially motivated by a sense of justice gets tossed out the window when he takes Marty's bribe.
- Toplessness from the Back: Discussed. The screenwriter finally figures out how to preserve his critically important nudity scene with an actress who refuses to get naked. Also, when Walt asks a female assistant to take off a t-shirt he doesn't like, she does so and reveals that she isn't wearing a bra.
- Woman Scorned: Carla