The film stars the rather teethy Elizabeth Berkley (who looks like an ‘80s Scarlet Johansson ) as Nomi, a young drifter who is on her way to Vegas to realize her dreams of becoming a dancer. Nomi hitches a ride from nowheresville to Vegas with a creepy Elvis look-alike who later burns her. Luckily in her moment of distress she bumps into a girl named Molly who offers her a place to stay and hey presto, they become friends. Nomi starts working as a stripper at a sleazy strip joint called the Cheetah and then auditions for a part in the stage show Goddess. It’s not exactly a case of good girl gone bad, more so a bad girl gone worse. As Nomi mounts her way to the top it all goes to her head as she gets more money, more fame and bigger hair.
Boasting scenes of (and which also explored) explicit sexuality, rape, lesbianism, interracial relationships, drug abuse and prostitution/stripping, Showgirls is probably the most famous or should that be infamous? Exploitation film. Everyone seems to write it off as terrible or tacky trash but there’s real heart to the film. A lot of critics also claim the film to be demeaning towards women which I find absolute bullshit. If anything at least it points out how systems fail women – such as Nomi leaving home as a child to become a prostitute; or when Molly is brutally raped and the man responsible goes unpunished by the justice system. Perhaps what makes some of the commentary invisible to some people is the convoluted plot. Maybe I am just such an anti-feminist that I read films that depict women in sexual and violent positions in a strange way, but I don‘t think this film disrespects women at all. Nomi is fully aware of what she is doing and doesn‘t care what she has to do to gets what she wants. Even when she gets double crossed her fuck you attitude doesn’t waver.
Apart from copious amounts of nudity and sex, I always find the gang rape scene with the musician to be incredibly sad to watch and I don’t say that lightly as I laughed during the rape scene in Irreversible (I felt it tried too hard to be confronting, that it came off too comedic). The scene in Showgirls is much like the scene in Araki’s Nowhere: girl meets celeb, celeb abuses her…it’s the juxtaposition of this idealised great/romantic moment of meeting and fucking a famous person mixed with raw violence that makes it one of the more effective rape scenes I’ve seen.
It really is surprising that this film had a theatrical run due to how smutty it is. Despite bombing at the theatre the film generated more than 100 million dollars in rentals and is one of MGM’s best selling titles. And the screenplay cost $2 million!! $2 million dollars and it’s one of the most crap-tastic screenplays ever. Poor old Elizabeth Berkley only got $100,000 for baring her tits for the entire movie and gyrating all over the place, the poor girl. Next to Lindsay Lohan’s stripping scenes in I Know Who Killed Me, the lap dance between Nomi and Zack in Showgirls has to be one of the most horrendous “seductive” scenes I’ve ever had the displeasure to watch. She gyrates and thrusts her junk all up in his face and how they got through it and were able to look each other in the eyes I don’t know. I’m sure some guys probably find a gyrating vagina rammed in their face attractive, I dunno it was just so dirty for a mainstream film. The sex stuff wasn’t as sleazy to me this time around but the first time I watched it I was almost uncomfortable for the actors, it’s just so damn smutty!
The acting in the film really is atrocious, even Kyle MacLachlan’s acting is questionable. I think this may be due to the fact that there is so much awkward sexuality in the film. So my verdict… it’s sexy, it’s sleazy, it’s disgusting and it’s creepy but it’s sooo good. Showgirls is a film I can never get sick of watching even though I find so much of it repulsive. People call it trash but it’s not trash…it’s simply about trash. It’s seedy and sick because there are people out there like that, and I think it is great that this film showcases that women can be just as fucked up and manipulative as men…and handle it.
The Umbrella Entertainment release is bare boned accompanied only by a theatrical trailer, but is worth buying if you love the film and missed out on the MGM V.I.P edition which included two shot glasses, movie cards with drinking games on the back, a deck of playing cards and a nude poster of Berkley that came with pasties so you could play pin the pasties on the showgirl…
Oh and I have to mention the best line in the film stated by Nomi’s former boss and strip club owner Al (who comes to watch Nomi dance in the show): “It must be weird, not having anyone cum on you”. If a line like that doesn’t make you interested, what the hell will?
Showgirls is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Umbrella Entertainment.