Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


SHOWGIRLS (1995). Director: Paul Verhoeven.

"Must be weird -- not having anybody cum on ya."

Tossed around by life, Noni Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) plops down in Las Vegas where she winds up in a competition with an established star named Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon), leading to a sudden eruption of violence and a new, temporary career for Noni. If this had been a cheapjack "B" movie directed by Hugo Haas and starring Cleo Moore or Beverly Michaels, it might have had somewhat more entertainment value than this bloated vehicle that is over two hours long and never develops a clear cut plot or characters despite the huge amount of money paid to Joe Ezsterhas for his cliche-ridden screenplay. For the first twenty minutes or so it looks as if Showgirls might at least be fun, but after awhile you realize that the movie is really going nowhere, and that the writer and director are just throwing things at the audience without any real regard for coherency. Does this movie dissect the debasement and objectification of women, or is it a prime example of that very thing -- Showgirls doesn't have enough on its mind you make you care either way. Cristal seems to have a decided hankering for Noni, leading to her jealous bitchiness, but why then do they practically have a love scene together near the end? [Noni's actions at the very end of the movie are even more inexplicable, but then the movie is often not logical.] The filmmakers obviously want to see lots of naked female flesh and girl-on-girl action (or at least the suggestion of same) but there's no real intelligent attempt to explore lesbianism or bisexuality, or anything else in the movie. [Ezsterhas' take on lesbianism is about on the level of his Basic Instinct. This is the kind of movie in which women are "allowed" to have sexual relationships with each other only if they also fool around with men. ] The movie is less sexy than vulgar (and not in a good way) and one supposedly erotic pool scene between Noni and producer Zack Cary (Kyle MacLachlan) is unintentionally hilarious. [Zack practically sneers at Cristal because of her feelings for Noni.] The "dancing" in the movie is all motion, calisthenics, and attitude, and nothing that would give Fred Astaire any competition. Some of the acting is okay. Berkley has basically a whole movie to carry on her shoulders, and acquits herself competently, even if it can't exactly be called a great performance. Gina Gershon can do little to make her character any more than a stereotype and a dirty joke. Gina Rivera scores as Noni's friend, Molly, who is gang-raped in a horrible scene late in the movie. On the other hand, Lin Tucci is quite disgusting as an obese entertainer, Henrietta, fond of snapping her breasts out of her dress in a topless club whose customers in real life would probably upchuck at the sight or at least head for the men's room. Alan Rachins is on target as an utterly loathsome self-described "prick" who seems to enjoy demeaning his showgirls, but every (straight) man in the movie is a complete asshole, making the movie almost as offensive to guys as it is to the ladies. There's the nice touch of two of the male dancers being a romantic gay couple (mostly in the background), but that's not enough to make this picture seem like anything even remotely progressive. NOTE: For another interesting take on this picture, click here.

Verdict: Some colorful moments, but pretty dreadful. **.


angelman66 said...

Ha! I love your take on this, Bill, and agree with every word. THANK you for complimenting poor Miss Elizabeth Berkely, who won every Worst Actress Award they were giving out. The girl really does try her best, and lets herself be objectified horribly throughout this unbelievably misogynistic movie. There's not one redeeming character, except the poor girl who gets beaten and gang-raped. Every other character is a morally bankrupt evildoer of one kind or's a nightmarish cartoon of the worst humanity has to offer. LOL

Oh, I can't wait to write about this one myself, you have got my juices flowing!!

William said...

Yes, yes, please dissect this picture in your inimitable way -- I'm sure it will be great! When all is said and done Berkley really wasn't bad considering ... She amassed more than a few credits both before and after this film.

Looking forward to your write-up on this flick.