YOU DON’T NOMI
YOU DON’T NOMI
Director: Jeffrey McHale
Cast: Elizabeth Berkley, Joe Eszterhas, Gina Gershon, Joshua Grannell, April Kidwell, Kyle MacLachlan, Haley Mlotek, Adam Nayman, David Schmader, Paul Verhoeven
Runtime: 92 minutes
SYNOPSIS: A detailed and insightful look at one of the most controversial movies of all time, ‘You Don’t Nomi’ brings together film critics and fans of ‘Showgirls’ to shed light on its legacy.
Director/writer Jeffrey McHale deconstructs one of the most controversial movies of all time – Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls – and with the documentary You Don’t Nomi he brings together film critics and fans of the film to shed light on its legacy. Film critics and fervent devotees explore the complicated life and afterlife of 1995’s biggest film flop – Verhoeven’s big-budget sleaze-fest – from its disastrous release to cult adoration and an extraordinary redemption.
Ahead of its 25th anniversary, Showgirls is reappraised by US-based critics like Adam Nayman (Vice Guide to Film), commentators, YouTubers like Matt Baume and super-fans who get together with archive footage and interviews with cast and crew to try to find an answer to an apparently unanswerable question. Is it a ‘masterpiece of shit’, a misunderstood masterstroke of satirical bad taste from a master of cinema? Or is it simply a dreadful mis-step in Verhoeven’s impressive career?
Reviled by critics across the world on its initial release, the film has since joined The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Valley of the Dolls, Mommie Dearest in being now reclaimed as a camp, cult classic.
Stage actress April Kidwell speaks movingly of finding peace in her popular send-up Showgirls! The Musical’ off Broadway and drag artist and film director Peaches Christ had a show dedicated to the film that one commentator describes as ‘All About Eve on a G-string’.
Showgirls still holds the record for the most Razzie Award nominations ever – a whopping thirteen – with Verhoeven even turning up to collect his Worst Director gong in person. At the time of its much-hyped release – in the wake of his and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’ smash neo-noir erotic thriller Basic Instinct (1992) – cast and crew were seriously discussing the dramatic depth and relevance of Showgirls. That was all to change once the film received an epic critical hammering.
Some, such as male co-star Kyle MacLachlan, deemed the film as ‘horrible’, while others, such as writer, Joe Eszterhas claimed it to be deliberately, satirically perverse. Even Verhoeven eventually shifted his narrative to side with the satirists and midnight movie fans.
The one real victim from all the fall-out remains its star, Elizabeth Berkley, who played the young lead showgirl Nomi Malone. Near the end of the documentary, we see her at a 20th-anniversary screening of the film. She’s beaming with joy at showing Showgirls to thousands of gleeful patrons, but this is particularly poignant after considering her relationship to the film as explained in the documentary.
Someone does ask the question “Can you be a feminist and be a Showgirls fan?” – which brings focus onto the portrayal of its female characters. One of the few female critics interviewed off-camera interestingly suggests that Verhoeven actually ‘gets’ women, since all his lead female characters are far from shrinking violets.
However Showgirls, despite attempts in recent years to reclaim as a camp, cult classic like The Rocky Horror Picture Show does contain scenes of misogyny and racism. In the era of #MeToo it is even more difficult to swallow the argument that the film holds a mirror up to society as a whole, despite the affectionate, academic tone of McHale’s film.
Streaming on Curzon Home Cinema
Images courtesy of Bulldog Films