— Casting the half-lidded, frozen-faced Paris Hilton as an idyllic beauty who refuses to date any man until her hairy, dentally challenged friend Christine Lakin finds love
— Reducing "ugliness" to the kind of easily fixed cosmetic problems—a mole here, an ingrown toenail there—that someone as beauty-conscious as Hilton's character should've helped Lakin take care of years ago
— Offering as a male romantic lead a dopey slacker (played by Joel David Moore) who's really as much of a "nottie" as anyone else in the film
— Continually using the word "nottie" as though it's an actual thing
Defender: Producer Hadeel Reda, recorded in one commentary with screenwriter Heidi Ferrer, and in another with Moore and Lakin (but not, notably, Paris Hilton)
Tone of commentary: Delusional. Moore says he wouldn't have taken his role unless the characters in the film were "smart," which he apparently—and unaccountably—judged them to be. Completely in thrall to the team-player spirit of Hollywood indies, Moore and Lakin praise Ferrer's insights into the culture of the superficial, and talk at length about their motivations from scene to scene. ("Does she know that I'm lying?" Moore wonders, in all seriousness, about Hilton's character. "Does she care?") Reda also oohs and aahs over Ferrer's comic genius. while making belated suggestions for how the movie might've been even funnier. Her big idea is that when Hilton says to Moore, "A life without orgasms is like a world without flowers," Moore should've handed her a flower. (Ferrer politely agrees that would've been neat.) And at one point, while Lakin's character is picking at her infected toenail on a date, Reda has a moment of clarity and wonders, "Why didn't you just cover your feet?" Isn't that the kind of question she should've asked before they started shooting?
What went wrong: Again, delusions. Although the tight 21-day shoot was plagued with paparazzi, that didn't distract the cast and crew from making a movie they thought was really saying something about how the world discriminates against the unfashionable. "A lot of people accused us of being mean with this," Reda says. "But I think we're bringing to the surface what really exists." And yet Reda still seems unduly enamored of Hilton's beauty, and put off by Ferrer's suggestion that every woman feels like Lakin sometimes. When Ferrer insists she drew from life, saying, "I did exaggerate a lot of my personal flaws, like, I have a lot of trouble with hair removal," Reda replies, "I didn't need to know that."
Comments on the cast: Though Hilton isn't present, everyone still takes pains to praise her "compassion" and her "heart," and how they're glad she got to show a side that she hasn't shown in her other films. "She's a girl's girl," says Ferrer. "She's a friend. I can believe that she has lifelong friends, and I think it really plays." Reda thinks Hilton may have drawn on her relationship with Nicole Richie, though she quickly adds, "Not that Nicole is a nottie!" Moore, meanwhile, is in awe of the broad comic business of Adam Kulbersh, who plays one of Lakin's reluctant suitors. "I love all his little 'isms,'" Moore says. During the scene where Kulbersh pulls Lakin's blackened toenail out of his mouth and then dives off a pier like a panicked Daffy Duck, Moore says, "In this moment, Adam really shines."
Inevitable dash of pretension: Moore praises director Tom Putnam—also conspicuously absent from the commentary—for having the bright idea to film so many scenes near the ocean, which makes the movie "feel cinematic." (Reda adds, "The beach, this lifestyle, is really a character in the film.") And while much of the chatter in the commentary is about how the movie urges viewers to look below the surface, that doesn't stop all concerned from breathlessly ogling every hardbody on the screen. When Hilton is introduced in a scene where she's jogging on the beach in slow motion, Lakin and Reda have the following exchange:
Lakin: "It's like, all the popular kids in high school, you know how they walk slow into the auditorium? I think Paris lives her life in slow motion."
Reda: "I think the popular, beautiful people just learn how to strut at a very early age."
Lakin: "They make their own wind, as Tyra Banks says."
Reda: "That's a nice visualization."
Lakin: "I think so."
The commentary in a nutshell: Lakin, describing how she got into character, says, "We've all been a nottie at some point. And if you're told you're a nottie your entire life, you might just keep on believing it into your adulthood." Reda: "You start dressing in nottie clothes."