08 March 2011

SHEER UGLINESS

I know Josh Hime to be a good man, and I knew this even before he publicly gave to charity in the form of the Carry On Campaign. And yet, this good man has done something terrible to me, in punishment for what sin I do not know. Whatever it was, I am truly sorry.

Sometimes, you see a staggeringly awful movie and you think to yourself, "I cannot begin to imagine why anybody wanted to make that"; this is not something that happens with The Hottie & the Nottie. Not with an executive producer in the form of noted wealthy famous person Paris Hilton, who seems to have decided one morning that she was ready to be a movie star and so bought herself a picture, in which she played a character observed by every other character to be the most beautiful woman in the city of Los Angeles. You or I or any halfway sane person might have recoiled in disgust at the script, but no, I cannot feign confusion that this was made - a person famous only because of the intense lack of basic decency with which she has pursued fame would obviously want to play the most beautiful conceivable human being, and not just beautiful in physical terms, but in moral and spiritual ones as well. This is no mere Paris Hilton, Hottie of Hotties, but St. Paris the Good, a woman of such deep concern for her fellow man that she denies herself all pleasures in life until she knows that he best friend is happy. The film built around this person is as nauseating and unconvincing as the socialite's attempts to recast herself as the most perfect of all mortal beings, but what else could we expect from Hilton's first theatrically-relased starring vehicle - I am sore tempted to say her only starring vehicle, but three years later, she is still wealthy, and I am not given to optimism.

As it turns out, the protagonist of The Hottie & the Nottie isn't even played by Hilton. Instead, it is chiefly concerned with Nate Cooper (Joel David Moore), who many years before was in first grade with Hilton's Cristabel Abbott. The first and last remotely clever idea that director Tom Putnam has is to introduce Cristabel and Nate, as children (played by Karley Scott Collins and Caleb Guss, whose parents should be publicly shamed in the village square), underneath the names of the grown-up actors playing the same characters. Did I say "remotely clever"? Perhaps I should have rather said, "The nearest that Tom Putnam ever comes to an even remotely clever idea, nor is it a terrible close nearness, is to..."

When we meet Nate in the present day, it's as he's being dumped by his girlfriend (Kathryn Fiore), who is sick of his shitty acoustic guitar songs that passive-aggressively lash out at everything she does that bothers him. All well and good, except for a tremendous, singular mistake the filmmakers commit: they let us hear his song. Which is unquestionably shitty, as well as being, unquestionably passive-aggressive, and in the very same stroke that The Hottie &c introduces its hero, it makes it virtually impossible to regard him as anything other than a complete asshole. And that is what it is; it's not like Ace in the Hole or All About Eve have particularly likable characters, and they're both masterpieces. They're also not romantic comedies, and the threat of having to watch a massively unlikable dick try to get the girl for 90 minutes - to be expected to root for this chinless shitheel - is too much to ask for. And the movie doesn't even give us five minutes before it springs this incredibly unpleasant trap.

Nate decides that his whole life, he has been in love with Cristabel, and thus he flies from Maine back home to Los Angeles, where his old school friend Arno (The Greg Wilson - that is exactly how he is credited) has a massive dossier on her habits. She is much desired by every male in the city, apparently, but being too busy on the weekends filling in for Jesus, she has no time to date. Also, she refuses to so much as kiss a man until her best friend, June Phigg (Christine Lakin) has a boyfriend. Sadly, according to the well-known rule that the hotness of an girl must be balanced by the un-hotness of her best friend,* June is ghastly to look at: terrible skin, thinning hair, a huge mole, awful teeth. Nate and Arno begin a quest to get June laid, which involves getting her scrubbed up and made-over, partially with the help of Johann (Johann Urb), a gorgeous Renaissance Man from Switzerland, who appears to have designs on one or both of the women. That is almost the entirety of the concept. I'll confess to being uncertain about the ultimate ending of the film: every inch of the concept screams in giant Comic Sans,
but since this is the Paris Hilton Vanity Hour in just about every possible way, I wasn't certain she ended up with the boy. Silly Tim. It gives her another chance to be saintly and selfless, of course, right before the movie jams to a stop the second the conflict is resolved and before that messy "denouement" nonsense, more like an Italian horror film than a '00s romantic comedy, and I'm glad at least somebody realised that this was more of a horror film than a romcom.

It's really quite hard to decide what about the film is the worst element - Paris Hilton is too easy -though at the same time, one must avoid the temptation to over-criticise The Hottie & the Nottie. It's perfectly fucking dreadful, of course, but lots of movies are perfectly fucking dreadful, especially ones that try to fuse gross-out lad comedy with the tropes of a romantic comedy. If I were forced to choose between The Hottie & the Nottie and, for example, Good Luck Chuck, and God keep me from ever being so forced, but I can't honestly say that it would be an easy choice to hop on the Dane Cook Express. What makes The Hottie & the Nottie so easy to hate is that there's someone to blame: without Hilton, this film doesn't exist, full stop. And it's even easier to hate the film and blame the "actress" given that Hilton is already so devoid of any positive characteristics as a human being.

Certainly, she brings nothing to the table. Her acting style, such as it is, is absolutely vacant, her face a frozen mask that can express no particular emotion beyond a vague impression of flirtiness. Nor is she remotely as hot as the film needs her to be: hotter than a regular person walking down the street, it is true, but by movie star standards, Hilton has a squishy face and she can't fucking open her eyes all the way. She's not even as cute as Lakin with her ugly makeup removed, frankly. But I'm not sure that I'd even call her the worst member of the cast: Moore, who looks kind of like a hybridisation of Matthew Lillard and Jon Heder, certainly doesn't fight against the massively obnoxious characterisation he's been handed, but I think I have to stick with The Greg Wilson as the most wholly awful performer, with his sub-sub-Dan Fogler routine - and I bet you didn't know there was even a plain sub-Dan Fogler! - while confessing that his name probably helps me along in that decision. As does his insistence on pronouncing "nottie", very clearly, as "naughty".

But there's so much to hate beyond just the actors! There is the breezy misogyny of the script, which quite literally cannot conceive of a woman who has any value if she is not attractive - not only does June become more physically appealing as the film moves on, she grows less and less vengefully meanspirited -and it frankly doesn't seem possible that a woman, Heidi Ferrer, could have written it. But I guess women can be misogynists, too. There is Putnam's bargain-basement sense of how to direct, which veers erratically from the crudely functional use of the barest-bone camera set-ups imaginable, to uncertain, clumsy pans (including one of Johann's house that just sort of wobbles into the sky, focusing on nothing of the remotest visual or narrative importance for a good half-second. And there's dialogue that tries to pass things like this off as jokes: "Your Medieval Times goblet will be half full". Note that this is the only reference to Medieval Times in the movie. Note that saying "Medieval Times" is not, inherently, a gag, any more than saying "midget mime" is inherently a gag, especially when The Greg Wilson says it in a disgusting child-on-sugar squeak.

In essence, the film does nothing right. Nothing. It's ugly and ill-made, unfunny and indeed outright anti-funny, the characters are loathsome, the philosophy moreso, and the whole thing is in service to masturbate the ego of one of the most undeservedly famous people in the history of the world. I understand that the sentence I just wrote makes The Hottie & the Nottie sound tremendously appealing in a car-wreck kind of way, but that is only because I'm trying to be nice on account of this review is for charity.

6 comments:

The.Watcher said...

"Hilton has a squishy face and she can't fucking open her eyes all the way."


I love you.

Zev Valancy said...

I realized something about a year ago: it had been ages since I'd heard any news or hype about Paris Hilton. And it's stayed true--she's far less in the public eye than she once was. This makes me hope that perhaps her film career is at an end, and perhaps our society has been spared one blight. How fortunate we are.

Ben Hatke said...

The last paragraph of this review was sublime.

james1511 said...

more like an Italian horror film than a '00s romantic comedy

What, they all get chased into Hell by a horde of zombies?

On a more serious note, there's something about Paris Hilton I've always found repulsive. For some reason I've just never had the impression that she's actually interested in anything, that she has any driving passion for something worth being passionate about, that she knows anything about art or history or politics or whatever, or that she even thinks anything about these things. Like there's a vacuum or something behind that plastic face. I've never found her physically attractive, but worse than that is the feeling I always get from that there's not much of a person there to find interesting either.

You're a braver man than I for taking this on; I don't think I could've watched this even for charity.

Neil Fulwood said...

I hope Josh made a really significant financial contribution! I don't that I'd have been able to sit through this - Hilton's few minutes of screen time in the 'House of Wax' remake was enough to set me praying in the cinema like an atheist in a foxhole: "please God, don't let her be the final girl, please God, anything but that" - nor write a review this elegant and witty.

Congratulations on taking an elegant stiletto to the Paris "BJ" Hilton Ego Show and coming out of the experience with your sanity intact.

optimushime said...

I am so, so happy right now.