Sunday, March 23, 2014

Showgirls (Paul Verhoeven, 1995)

Is it possible for someone to do everything wrong, yet still manage to succeed in life? What am I saying? Of course it's possible. In fact, I'd say more half the world's population fits neatly into this category. And Showgirls is the ultimate tale of failing your way to success. Now, I don't know if the film's protagonist does everything wrong. I mean, they can sort of walk from one place to another without falling flat on their stupid face. But everything else they do is rife with failure. Turning off the radio station channel that was playing Garth Brooks and switching it to a station that was playing "Vision Thing" by The Sisters of Mercy was the only thing Nomi Malone does right in this movie. Though, changing channels with the pointy end of your switchblade wasn't all that smart. Think about it, she could have missed the buttons, and by doing so, she could have electrocuted herself. (Boy, this Nomi chick sounds like a real dolt.) You can say that again. I know I don't need to sight another example, as you already seem on board the Nomi Malone is a moron express, but I just thought of a doozy. In a scene that appears near the end of the film, Zack Carey, Nomi's slick, floppy-haired Svengali, compliments Nomi's thrusting capacity. Now, most people, when you tell them they fuck good, will throw you a sheepish smile and usually say thank you. But not Nomi. No, she spits in your face. I know, crazy, huh? Her brain does not work like yours and mine. Seriously, there's definitely something off about the way she processes information, and I plan on... (Don't tell me, you plan on examining the mind of Nomi Malone?) You got that right. As I watched this film's toilet seat-esque sheen flicker in front of me, I discovered two things: One, no matter what Nomi said, I would disagree with it. And, two, every time Zack Carey would remove his hair from his eyes, I got a mild yeast infection.


The only character I identified with in Showgirls universe was Melanie Van Betten's Versace Saleswoman. Yes, I realize that's a bit of an odd choice, but hear me out.


After getting a sizable tip for a lap dance she gave to Kyle MacLachlan's Zack Carey  at Cheetahs, the Las Vegas strip club she "dances" at (her spastic gyrating causes him to cream his designer chinos), Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) and her gal pal Molly (Gina Ravera) go to the mall to celebrate. Passing the Versace store, Nomi decides that she wants that little black dress on display in the window. Being that she is a seamstress, Molly offers to make the dress for her, but Nomi refuses and goes hurdling into the shop with a gangly aplomb.


An excited Nomi comes barreling out of the dressing room and starts posing up a storm in the store's mirror. Giggling loudly and spouting a flurry of girlish nonsense, Nomi is wrapped up in the sight of her long, shapeless legs jutting out from the bottom of the skimpy garment. As this is happening, the Versace Saleswoman tries to approach her. Using her shapely legs, which are sheathed in black nylons, the Versace Saleswoman walks toward her in a stealthy, "I'm about to collect me some motherfucking commission," manner.


Realizing almost immediately that nothing positive can come from her interacting with this non-leggy human female, the Versace Saleswoman lets out a sigh, turns around and walks away from Nomi. Well, when I saw the Versace Saleswoman let out that sigh and begin to walk away, I started jumping up and down on the couch. I was all like, "Yeah! You don't need this shit, Versace Saleswoman. You're leggy and you're stylish. So, fuck her and her switchblade-wielding, gross hamburger eating, Versace-mispronouncing ass.


If only the other characters that populate this ingrown armpit hair of a movie had followed the Versace Saleswoman's lead and walked away. Think about how much better this film would have been.


Wait a minute, that didn't come out right. If everyone walked away from Nomi Malone, there wouldn't be a movie. Excuse me? Did I just hear you mutter the word "exactly" under your breath? Bite your tongue, young man. I don't want to live in a world where Showgirls doesn't exist.


(I don't understand, you sound like you hate Nomi Malone.) First of all, I never use the word "hate" (my momma didn't raise no hater). And secondly, there's more to Showgirls than just Nomi Malone. (More?) I got two words for you... (What? Versace Saleswoman?) No, the two words are Gina and Gershon. (Huh?) If you put them together, what do you get? That's right, Gina Gershon! (Oh, okay, that makes sense.)


However, before Gina Gershon, and, I suppose, the Versace Saleswoman, can appear onscreen, Nomi has to get her blandly-shaped ass to Las Vegas. Hitching a ride from Jeff (Dewey Weber), Nomi, who is wearing a black leather jacket covered in frays, is on her way to Las Vegas. To show her appreciation for giving her ride, Nomi pulls a switchblade on Jeff. I know, that's a pretty funny way to show your appreciation to someone, but, like I said, Nomi can't seem to do anything right.


After Jeff steals Nomi's suitcase when they get to Las Vegas, she runs into the parking lot and starts smashing one of the cars. It just so happens that the car she's smashing belongs to Molly. Unamused by this display, Molly tries to stop her from wrecking her car. This causes Nomi lose her bearings and she runs into oncoming traffic. Just as a car is about to run her over, Molly pulls her to safety. For some inexplicable reason, Molly offers to buy Nomi something to eat at a fast food joint. (Oh, you thought that was inexplicable, eh? Don't look now, but Molly is offering to let Nomi stay at her place.) I don't get this, she smashes your car, doesn't thank you for saving their life, and has a fully-body conniption fit when you ask her a simple question. Are you sure you want this waxy, barely lifelike creature living under the same roof as you?


Flash-forward six weeks and Nomi and Molly are best buds. Living in a trailer park on the outskirts of town--or maybe the trailer park was on the inskirts of town, what do I know?--Molly is a seamstress at the Stardust Casino and Nomi has since got a job as a stripper at the Cheetah Club. Told to wear her pink dress with the fringe, Molly takes Nomi to see where she works. Backstage at a show called "Goddess," Molly is busy fixing g-strings before the show is about to begin. Watching from a balcony, Nomi gets a birds eye view of the homosexual nightmare that is this stage show. Now, whereas most people would dismiss Goddess as lurid trash--even I thought it was garish and vulgar--Nomi dreams of being a part of it.


Of course, she blows her first opportunity to do so when she tells the show's star, Crystal Conners (Gina Gershon), that she doesn't know shit after Miss Conners dares to question whether or not she's a dancer (she's of the mind that strippers aren't dancers). And not only that, she nearly cost Molly her job in the process. After all, it was Molly who introduced this mentally unstable jizz jar to the star of the show.


Speaking of getting people fired, Nomi gets James Smith (Glenn Plummer) fired from his job as a bouncer at a nightclub. It's true, James put his job jeopardy when he decided to dance with Nomi (bouncers are supposed to bounce the customers, not dance with them). But when Nomi knees James in the groin, this causes a fight to break out. And get this, the reason she knees him in the groin is because he offered to give her dancing lessons. First of all, why are all these black people bending over backwards to help this unattractive sociopath? And secondly, no, forget secondly, why are they doing this? It's driving me insane.


Anyway, it's not just black people who seem to want to help her, white people want to help as well. Case in point, Crystal Conners and Zack Carey (Kyle MacLachlan), the entertainment director for the Stardust, show up at the Cheetah, and give Nomi 500 dollars to grind all over all Zack's lap.


Oh, and before the lap dance scene, we see Nomi strip/dance for the first time, and I must say, her performance was the complete opposite of sexy. Employing these fast, jerky, aggressive dance moves, Nomi, whose body is an amorphous slab of sweaty skin, proceeds to hurl herself across the stage like a deranged lunatic. As I sat there, unmoved by Nomi's routine, I thought to myself, maybe I am gay? Then it dawned me. The reason I wasn't moved by her routine had nothing to do with sexual orientation, but the simple fact that she just doesn't do it for me. Everything, from the way she thrusts her pelvis, to way she eats a hamburger, was off-putting.


Taking the money she earned from the Kyle MacLachlan lap dance, Nomi buys a skimpy black dress at the local Versace store. You know what that means, right? Yep, it's time for the Versace Saleswoman (Melanie Van Betten) to make her brief yet profound appearance. Approaching Nomi as she's trying the dress on, the Versace Saleswoman says, "It looks quite good on you." To which Nomi responds, "It doesn't suck" (a phrase Nomi uses at least three times over the course of the film). Upon hearing this, the Versace Saleswoman turns around, rolls her eyes, lets out an exasperated sigh and proceeds to walk away. Congratulation, Versace Saleswoman. You're the only character in this movie to see Nomi for what she really is: A selfish, entitled, spoiled brat.


While the Versace Saleswoman is the smartest character in the film, in a strange twist, Al Torres (Robert Davi), Nomi's boss at the Cheetah Club, is the film's most sympathetic. It's true, while on the surface, he might come off as a real scumbag. But the scene where he visits Nomi, who has since landed a spot in the Goddess cast, is just teeming with pathos. I'm not kidding, I nearly broke down in tears when Al tells Nomi, "It must be weird, not having anybody cum on you."


In terms of acting, I would have to say that Gina Gershon gives the film's strongest performance, as she is the only one in the cast who seems to know what camp is (she says, "I used to love Doggy Chow" while sipping a glass of champagne). As far as sexiness goes, this film is limp and unmanageable (the sex scene between Nomi and Zack in his pool is so awful that it actually caused my junk to unattach itself from my torso and leave the room in a huff). That being said, Rena Riffel is smoking hot as the perpetually confused Hope/Penny, a stripper/dancer who's new to the whoring racket. Miss Riffel has a natural allure, and she doesn't make me physically sick when I look at her. And in the world of Showgirls, that's the nicest thing you can say about a person.

 

12 comments:

  1. I got around to watching this one a few years back, and it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I'd been led to believe. Don't get me wrong, it's not in any way a good movie; but I've seen much worse. Sadly, probably the best thing I can say about it.

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    1. Showgirls makes a mockery of the words good and bad. It's an entity onto its own.

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  2. Somehow, I think this fits into the general Verhoeven theme of "people are fucking scum." If Verhoeven even has a theme to his films. Maybe its just a happy accident. Or failure doing everything right.

    Anywho... fun little fact, Big Sexxah Kevin Nash was once the head bouncer of the Cheetah, a similarly named but unrelated strip club in Atlanta.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6kG_QC1tjs

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    1. Ahhh, wrestling! I was hoping for gay porn. ;)

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    2. Well, it is big sweaty half-naked men throwing each other about.

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    3. Going through your review again, I have to say you championing the Versace saleswoman scene pretty much epitomizes the "toilet seat-esque sheen flicker" of this film. I caught this on the late late show here in Japan many years ago and watched just to see what all the hoopla was about. They showed it uncensored (since it was 2:00am). Nothing Elizabeth Berkley did was sexy, hot, or interesting. Just stiff and weird. I thought she would break a hip or something with all her thrusting. The whiplash pool sex scene was downright comic. Maybe Verhoeven just hates your gentiles and wants you to feel bad about yourself.

      Gina Gershon was and still is totally hot, though.

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    4. Judging by the words I typed, you would have thought the Versace saleswoman directed this movie, as I didn't even mention Paul Verhoeven's Dutch ass once.

      Your statement regarding Gina is a truthful one.

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    5. I went and rewatched the whiplash pool sex scene to see if it was as weird as I remembered.

      Yep.

      Did someone drop a toaster in the pool and electrocute her at the end? Or does Special Agent Paul Atreides just have a magic dink? I think Elizabeth Berkley is a replicant, though.

      So that's why I mention Verhoeven. He directed "Robocop."

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    6. Now I dare you to watch SHOWGIRLS 2: PENNIES FROM HEAVEN which focuses exclusively on the Rena Riffel's "Penny" character. The actress herself wrote and directed it. Its 2 1/2 hours long and was a soul-shattering experience I still can't comprehend how I survived.

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    7. Oh yeah, Showgirls 2: Pennies from Heaven... I've heard about this. Soul-shattering, eh?

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  3. Yes, I'm late to the party...but I have to say how much I laughed right out loud reading this review! Thanks so much for your hilarious insights on the greatest movie ever made! And Gina? Well, yeah....I don't have words to describe the admiration I have for her. Thanks again!

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