Movie Review: Showgirls

Movie Review: Showgirls (1995)

Quote from Showgirls by Cristal Connors: “There’s always someone younger and hungrier coming down the stairs for you.”

When You Enter Sin City, Beware

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This is one of those movies that’s so bad it’s so good.  Yes, I will go with this.  It even led to a sequel titled Showgirls 2: Penny’s in Heaven.  I haven’t taken the time to see it, but I’ve seen Showgirls more than once.  Okay, twice.  Okay, more than twice.  The whole viewing experience from start to finish could be thought of as a catastrophe with the topless dancing and other crude things entertainers do to make an extra buck.  Is this really how Las Vegas inhabitants want its lovely city to be portrayed?  It probably doesn’t cross their minds much, but you gather there’s a lot of predatory people who come out at night for unsavory reasons because of this movie.  I’m sure the characters found in Showgirls do exist in the underbelly of Sin City.  The next question is at what quantity, but as any Hollywood producer knows, it doesn’t matter because sex sells or in this case sloppy sex sells.  They take a chance on the bad one liners and dialogue worthy of any Razzie Award.  This movie is not a creative masterpiece.  There is little to no elegance as the scenes pass by, and any refinement was missing in action before and during the filming.  Yet, it still kept my attention, but let’s not fool ourselves.  This movie is looking into a single mirror.  There’s a backside to the front, but you crave the opportunity to see it actually exists. 

People Made This Happen

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Showgirls was produced by Carolco Pictures, Chargeurs, United Artists, and Vegas Productions.  It was written by Joe Eszterhas, directed Paul Verhoeven, and released in 1995.  It stars Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan, and Gina Gershon as the primary cast.  Other members include Robert Davi, Glenn Plummer, Alan Rachins, Lin Tucci, and Rena Riffel.  The movie’s length is two hours and eleven minutes.  It has a MPAA rating of NC-17 for nudity and erotic sexuality throughout, and some graphic language and sexual violence.  The storyline is pretty clear-cut.  The character of Nomi Malone not only wants to make something of herself, but prove to others she is worth her weight in fake gold.  Not everything is as easy as it looks, but thanks to a lucky break she wiggles her way into the little crack provided her. It’s her job to get to the other side, and demonstrate she really deserves to be a showgirl.  As the saying goes, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but you do what you can with what you have.

The Characters and Plot Summary

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Showgirls begins with Joe Eszterhas who also wrote Flashdance, Nowhere to Run, Basic Instinct, Sliver, and Jade.  The protagonist is a woman named Nomi Malone.  She finds her way to Las Vegas, but her unwelcome only gets worse where her dream of being a dancer occurs in the most unsavory of places.  She is able to support herself through stripping at Cheetah’s, and meets a few frenemies along the way. 

The most important are Cristal Connors, who works at the Stardust Hotel, and Zach Carey, her boyfriend.  They give her the biggest break ever imagined.  She goes into the audition with great hopes.  She should’ve asked some questions, but decides not to, and realizes dreams do come true.  Nomi can officially call herself a “real” dancer and spend more time with her roommate, Molly, eating potato chips with glee. 

After a short practice to learn the Goddess routine steps, her hips thrust their way to become a successful backup dancer.  The conflict between Cristal and herself continues, but knows deep down this stems from jealousy of Cristal’s fame and power.  She does find an ally in Zach, which leads to a pool scene that begs the question, how does that actually work?  The only direction for Nomi is up, and as she climbs her way into being an understudy, she is then able to secure the top position.

A great semi-nude performance is rewarded with a party that goes awry.  This tragedy coming out of nowhere has some purpose as it brings clarification to Nomi where she realizes who she is and not, and of course, there has to be revenge.  She dispenses the punishment, harsh and quick, in stiletto boots and leopard print dress.  Her lipstick screams, “I’m ready to kick some major ass.”  The sleazy dancing within her has dissolved, which allows her to come full circle within herself.

Doing it Their Own Way

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Showgirls was Joe Eszsterhas’ baby.  While it didn’t bring down the box office and scored on the negative side with critics, it’s a movie you don’t want to turn away from because you want to know what happens to Nomi’s reign of dancing.  There were some roadblocks in the way, making it harder to cross to the finish line, but you still stayed the course.  This has become a movie strictly for its appalling dialogue, scenes appearing to be strung together with unraveling twine, over the top acting, and the question of Nomi’s street smarts.  There are two scenes that stayed with me after all the viewings.  One is the pure amusement of Nomi flopping around like a fish in the swimming pool.  If I could get access inside Zach’s mind to know how he felt as he watched her getting freaky, my life would be a little better.  Well, not much but some.  The second is the preparation of Nomi for her stage debut as a backup dancer.  Oh, the gyrations.  “Thrust it, thrust it, thrust it.”  Directors take part of movies they are semi-passionate about in order to make movies they have extreme passion for, and some directors are passionate about a similar story over and over again.  This is what Paul Verhoeven did with Showgirls.  While I don’t agree with his view of it being his “most elegant movie” he’s directed, there is no question he too did it his own way.  

Closing Reflections

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This movie targeted adults, especially those having an affinity for nudity and stripping, so to put a nice stereotype out there, single males.  I’m sure there are females that secretly watched this movie in the safety of their homes.  There has to be because it has earned more than 100 million in home video sales.  With an NC-17 rating, Showgirls manages to briefly touch upon social concepts such as homelessness, crime, and violence.  However, it was glossed over because of the other things, in the forefront, such as boobs, butts, and flashy wigs. 

This film objectifies women and some men because Eszterhas and Verhoeven’s attempt to make it semi-serious failed.  It could have been so much more.  There wasn’t enough focus on Nomi’s change when the film cut to credits.  She beat the crap out of someone, but it’s like she remained ditsy during other parts.  If you fast forward to current times, the Fifty Shades trilogy (I’ve seen the first two) falls on the same stage.  The characters of Christian and Anastasia have lack of depth.  It’s a movie with little nuance.  You want more, but don’t get it.  Again, sex sells, and in this case, fantasy sex sells. 

Because these types of movies exist signals people still crave life unlike what they have, and often watch them to “get away.”  Then, there’s me who likes to watch these movies and see how many gaps I can fill to make it better, even if it is a version within my pretty little head.  The bottom line to remember is Hollywood is a moneymaker first and everything else comes after it.  There are gambles and risks taken where some movies fail and some succeed.  It is also good to remember critics who offer critiques, good or bad, are opinions.  Some might be more popular than others, but still mostly opinions.  If you base movies solely on their earnings, then the Fifty Shades trilogy and Showgirls are a success.  If you don’t, then yes, there is still something to be desired, and yes, this is my opinion. 

*******

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Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I end with a partial quote in relation to Kyle MacLachlan seeing the film the first time.

“I mean, I really didn’t see that coming. So at that point, I distanced myself from the movie.  Now, of course, it has a whole other life as a sort of inadvertent… satire.  No, satire isn’t the right word.  But it’s inadvertently funny.  So it’s found its place.  It provides entertainment, though not in the way I think it was originally intended.  It was just… maybe the wrong material with the wrong director and the wrong cast.”

Pisaries Creator’s Rating

Showgirls gets two fingers at 65%.

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Showgirls Trailer/One Sheets by Carolco Pictures

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