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Sunday, 27 November 2016

Retro Review: Showgirls (1995)

Cast: Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan, Gina Gershon, Glenn Plummer, Robert Davi
Genre: Erotic Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $4 million 

Plot: Nomi arrives in Las Vegas with only a suitcase and a dream of becoming a top showgirl. She quickly befriends Molly, who works at the high-profile Stardust Hotel, and lands a job at a seedy strip club. A chance meeting with Crystal, the Stardust's marquee dancer, & her powerful boyfriend, Zack, brings Nomi one step closer to realising her dream. But as she ascends to the top, Nomi begins to wonder if it's all worth it

'I Admit I Was & Am Wrong About Showgirls - I Enjoyed It' 

Okay, so I have stated many times that this isn't or wasn't one of my favourite Paul Verhoeven movies, that it would have to rank as my lowest. For years, I was so sceptical of this movie, that I dismissed it completely. But after recently revisiting this movie, I have got to say that my dismissal of this movie was because of the sheer seediness of it and given the previews, it looked so corny- and yet somehow, after a full and proper viewing of Showgirls, I found this film to be .... watchable in a way. Which I cannot believe I am saying, given my previous slating of Showgirls

Still, the acting ranges from okay/substandard to abysmal, dialogue is the pits sometimes (written by Joe Esterhaz who penned Basic Instinct, and the dialogue in that film wasn't great, either) and at other times, okay strangely enough. There is the usage of the b - word a couple of times, and though Showgirls was slapped with an NC-17 rating, which is the highest, but for the lesbian kissing scene and make out romp in the swimming pool between Nomi and Kyle Maclachlan's character, the movie wasn't as overly sexual as the MPPA made it out to be, as the way it was shot, but for their heads, the water covered up their upper bodies. 

This movie is so odd: one minute she is taking her clothes off, the next, she's off window shopping, there is another scene that looked like an R-rated version of a So You Think You Can Dance audition scene with Nomi dancing her ass off in her underwear. There is also a scene like out of something from Flashdance. Showgirls tries to come across as being a serious drama, and though it is sort of corny at times, one can't help but see to it it is overwhelmed by a tackiness that subsumes in some of the acting and script. Yet that tackiness is what makes Showgirls so entertaining.

Elisabeth Berkley's character, Nomi is both dis-likeable, unsympathetic at times; her tantrums border on childish, but at the same time, it's like every time something good happens or comes across, she gets screwed around afterwards. Which isn't nice. Berkley's performance was slaughtered by critics, but in viewing Showgirls, it's actually not bad and not as bad as they say it was. Actually, it was so savage, the media and the film critics remarks about Elisabeth Berkley and how she is a horrible person or be it, actress, for doing this film went too far. It's also sad to know the negative reputation this film got had damaged Elisabeth's acting career in the long run. She didn't deserve it: if I have to blame one thing for this movie's failure it was how it was marketed and that Verhoeven and writer Joe Esterhaz didn't make the film's intentions truly clear. 

And besides, in a film such as this, the question here is, do you watch Showgirls because of the performances? Not really. You watch it for the entertainment and high camp factor; and I must say that there were 1, 2 entertaining scenes here that got my attention, far more so than in Basic Instinct. Basic Instinct but for the sex scenes, was underwhelming and anti-climatic, especially towards the end. Showgirls, on the other hand, was the opposite: it was climatic in places, the characters were a more varied bunch, and it also held my attention far longer than the 1992 erotic thriller. 

The central arc of Showgirls is Nomi's experiences in Las Vegas, the situations she finds herself in and the types of people she meets along the way & how her experiences shape her life, and the way these characters reveal themselves, both cynically and honestly.  

For a Verhoeven film, this is a more relaxed approach that he has taken, in stark contrast to his violent and dark sci-fi offerings. The scene where Nomi is dancing in front of the Black guy and a few mins later, she has her period, was awkward. In fact, this is so camp, it's almost like you are watching a Broadway show. Showgirls is more of a peak or a look at a dancer, trying to make it big. I know it isn't labelled as a musical or a drama about a dancer, but it seems that this film is so un-Verhoeven like. Well, almost but for the sex scene in the swimming pool, the nude scenes are no more as gratuitous and as hardcore as people painted them to be. They somehow managed to make it completely nonsexual, or in the case of the swimming pool sex scene not making it too revealing. 

I don't buy into this film being an accurate portrayal of what a showgirl's life is like, and I'm sure those reading this review, and of whom perform as showgirls would agree with me. 

The rape scene involving Nomi's friend and the Michael Bolton guy with a beard was difficult to watch; however, I liked the part where Nomi kicks the crap out of him out of vengeance, after she finds out she'd been raped, later on. 

Showgirls has been often compared to Striptease, but Striptease wasn't as interesting as I'd found it to be and the characters weren't very appealing. This movie, on the other hand, is strangely compelling from beginning to end: a satire of backstage shenanigans, people using each other and turning on each other. There are twists, Nomi getting stabbed in the back and bouncing back from each setback. If you can sit through this film in its entirety without being too swayed by the nudity, or indeed get by it, then you'll see Showgirls in a different - and more positive light.  

Final Verdict:

Showgirls is one of those intentionally 'so- bad- it's good', guilty pleasure adult entertainment movies masquerading as a mainstream populist high budget drama. Never has a film in history has been regarded by many people and critics as trashy porn and a joke, with a reputation as notorious as this movie during the 1990s. Unfortunately for many years, I actually bought into the critics word for it and avoided this movie, because of it. But having taken a chance with it, I see to it that Showgirls is highly watchable and entertaining. It's bold, it's daring and there are 2 or 3 scenes that really caught my eye.

Showgirls, surprisingly has some redeemable qualities, though not least so for the lead, Nomi, who starts out in this film being obnoxious that in the end, she isn't so bad after all. 

I'd have to rank this as my guilty pleasure - and dare I say it, it's far more entertaining than Basic Instinct. There I said it. Now lynch me; it's not going to change your life but whoever said it would. Would I own it on DVD though? Fat chance!

However, if you want pure entertainment & satire, if you want to be entertained on a sleazy level and not take everything so seriously, but for the brutal rape scene, then take a chance with Showgirls


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