Starring-Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan
Reviewed January 31, 2016
Having heard much about the infamously bad reviewed Showgirls, and its ranking as one of the worst films ever made, I finally got around to watching this (twenty years after its release). Now considered something of a camp classic, I am glad I did. While I recognize the dubious distinction it holds and do not disagree with it, I also found something slightly entertaining about the film, and my thought process throughout was “this film is so bad that it might be good”, but in the end it is pretty much just a bad film.
Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) hitchhikes to Las Vegas intending to find success as a showgirl. Having her belongings stolen, she is then befriended by a kind-hearted woman named Molly, who works as a seamstress at the topless dance revue, Goddess. Molly takes her in and introduces her to the star of the show-Cristal (Gina Gershon). A rivalry immediately develops between the women as Cristal mocks Nomi’s job at another topless club. The main story centers on this rivalry, as Nomi attempts to climb the ranks and achieve success in the shady world of adult entertainment. Along the way she becomes involved with various men, specifically entertainment director (and Cristal’s boyfriend), Zack, played by Kyle MacLachlan, leading to further tensions.
Let me be honest here- Showgirls is a bad film in every way. I observed three major flaws in the film- poor acting, poor writing, and the film being over-the-top on every level. Let’s break it down.
Within minutes, I knew the acting was sub-par, and I wonder if that is the fault of the director’s (Paul Verhoeven) directing or the actors themselves- or a combination. Known for directing Basic Instinct (a sexy, smoldering film), one wonders if he had the same success in mind for Showgirls. Berkeley gets the blunt of the mention since she is the lead character, but, wow what a bad performance. From the over dramatic delivery to the phony earnestness, I did not buy the performance for a minute and fantasized on more than one occasion on how a different actress might have tackled the role (Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts came to mind). Gershon was almost worse as her sexiness and vixen-like character was fraught with an irritating brooding pout.
The writing was clearly one-dimensional- poor girl tries to achieve success in a bad, bad world and meets challenge after challenge. Nothing new here. The predictability was apparent almost immediately and most of the characters unlikable. When Nomi garners interest in a man, he turns into a player with another aspiring female star on the side, feeding her the same lines as he did Nomi. Even the one sympathetic character (Molly), really exists only to make Nomi more likable as is the case when Molly is attacked and Nomi races to her bedside. Forced and formulaic, this scene is a prime example of the poor and contrived writing.
Most scenes played over-the-top. Brimming with nudity and sexual excitement, the film was bawdy and party friendly. In one scene, dancers take a line of coke before hitting the stage and a feud between two of the dancers results in one sabotaging the production so that the other dancer will break her hip. The larger than life (in more than one way) x-rated, well endowed, mama dancer, while entertaining, was also silly and baffoon-like. Chaotic and pointless, each scene was hard to believe and take seriously.
You may be wondering what positives can be found in Showgirls- the answer is not many, but there is a certain charm I found to the film, but perhaps I am glutenous for punishment. I think the film “feels” like it wants to have fun and a certain level of entertainment can be found in viewing it, but this is like trying to find a needle in the haystack to see any good in Showgirls.
I do not disagree with the distinction that Showgirls is one of the worst films ever made, but I found a sliver of charm, interest, and fun mixed in with the more prevalent drivel, poor quality, and painfully bad acting. But perhaps that is because it is so bad.