The Hottie and the Nottie

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2008, Regent Releasing
Paris Hilton, Joel David Moore, Christine Lakin, Johann Urb
Tom Putnam
MPAA Rating:
[PG-13] crude and sexual content
90 minutes

The Trailer

Click the play button to watch the trailer.

Paris Hilton and Christine Lakin on The Hottie and the Nottie
Commentary by Michael Lee (Cast interviews conducted February 2, 2008)

In the romantic comedy The Hottie and the Nottie, newly unattached dude Nate Cooper (Joel David Moore) decides to go waaaaay back into his datebook and look up his early childhood crush, Cristabel Abbott (Paris Hilton), after breaking up with his girlfriend. To his delight, Cristabel is single, and a blonde knockout; but to his dismay, she has vowed to not hook up with anyone until her best friend, June Phigg (Christine Lakin), has found a special someone for herself. But as the titular "nottie," June has a host of physical shortcomings that make it virtually impossible for her to land a man. So in an effort to win Cristabel's heart, Nate sets out to get June a boyfriend by whatever means possible, including bribery, trickery, and extreme makeovers. But along the way, he gets to know June and comes to realize that she, not Cristabel, might be "the one for him."

I'll give The Hottie and the Nottie credit for this: they go to great lengths to make June unattractive, truly working over actress Christine Lakin with a variety of harsh prosthetics. Every movie fan knows that "the ugly girl" in a romantic comedy about discovering the inner person is invariably a cute girl made up with glasses, baggy clothes, a messy hairdo, and a dash of social awkwardness. Rachael Leigh Cook was rocking all four in 1999's She's All That, and everyone knew she was still cute. Chyler Leigh played a parody of Cook's character in the subsequent Not Another Teen Movie, again toying with that particular Hollywood convention.

But The Hottie and the Nottie didn't pull any punches when it came to beating June with an ugly stick. Lakin is transformed with a unibrow, a fuzzy mole, the hair of a nuclear fallout victim, bad skin, rotten toenails, an array of "bacne," and a set of teeth reminiscent of moldy bread.

In an interview with Paris Hilton and Christine Lakin in support of the movie, the two talked about conducting their own experiment on how people are treated differently based on appearance. The idea surfaced early in the filming process, when a producer suggested that it would be fun to see the two actresses hit the town in full hottie and nottie make-up, and the opportunity to put the diabolical plan into motion arose when they were at the recent Sundance Film Festival.

Armed with the nottie's hair, eyebrow, clothes, and signature mole, Lakin stepped out into the nightlife at Hilton's side. Describing people's general reaction, she says, "There was just an utter sense of confusion of us walking in--people looking at her and being like, 'Oh it's Paris! Who is that unfortunate girl next to her?' A lot of people didn't realize it was our characters in the movie. So some people were just literally looking at us--who I think were from out of town--trying to take pictures of her and trying not to get me in them." The harsh, questioning gazes didn't deter her from having fun with the whole experience. Lakin laughs, "The nottie was out till like three. It was fantastic. The nottie had a very good Wednesday."

For the film, the process of getting Lakin into full make-up clocked in at two to three hours, depending on what was needed for that day's particular scenes. Recalling her reaction to seeing herself completely changed up for the first time, she says, "You know, they had me turned around away from the mirror, because I think they didn't want me to start getting freaked out halfway through and be like, 'Screw it, I'm not doing this!' But when they first turned me around, I was a little shocked at first. I thought I looked a little bit like a cavewoman, with the eyebrow and everything. It took a couple seconds to get used to, but it was everything that I had talked about. And so much of the character, in that moment of me seeing myself in the mirror, really started to come to life. And then I loved looking at myself in the mirror, and making faces and kind of playing around with it and baring my ugly teeth to people, especially [Paris]."

Hilton had a similar stint of unglamorizing herself for her reality show The Simple Life. She recounts, "Nicole [Richie] and I did that actually once on The Simple Life. We worked at Burger King and everyone knew it was us, so we ended up putting prosthetics on, like unibrows and hook noses and really bad teeth. And I couldn't even look in the mirror. I was like freaking out. I was so embarrassed to talk to people. But it was actually fun. By the end of the day, we came up with these funny Brooklyn accents, and Nicole and I had a good time doing that."

Like the Jack Black comedy Shallow Hal, The Hottie and the Nottie seems a bit hypocritical with its good-intentioned message of "it's what's on the inside that counts." Hal trumped its moral of inner beauty by trying to get audiences to fall in love with Gwyneth Paltrow rather than her obese alter ego, while Hottie displays a similar contradiction by having Nate fall for June only after she starts to get her cosmetic surgery.

But that might be overanalyzing a film that seeks to entertain more than educate. Hilton sums it up as "just a cute, fun love story about two best friends." She also sees it as an opportunity to spread her acting wings and break away from her Simple Life persona. "I've been doing that show for five seasons," she says. "It's a reality show where I'm playing a character, so I'm basically acting in that. And maybe people think that's really how I am, but it's not."

Hilton will be continuing her foray into acting with the horror comedy musical Repo! The Genetic Opera, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman of the Saw franchise, in which she plays a girl obsessed with plastic surgery. Still, she hasn't completely abandoned her old moves. When Lakin says that she relates to her character, lamenting, "I think I have an inner nottie. I'm short and sometimes I feel like an Oompa-Loompa compared to everyone," Hilton offers her friend and co-star some words of encouragement in that soft, coy way that has become her signature: "You're so hot."

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