Thursday, June 11, 2020

Hey wait, maybe it wasn't such a bad movie

When director Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls hit the screen in 1995, I was among the many critics who did their best to push it toward what seemed well-deserved obscurity. Now comes You Don't Nomi, a documentary aimed at telling the movie's detractors that we missed the point and to alert those who might not take the movie seriously to take another look. Verhoeven, a semi-serious director of such Dutch movies as Soldier of Orange and Spetters, made his bones on the festival circuit. Later, Verhoeven gave us such Hollywood movies as RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Starship Troopers. Because Verhoeven has a gift for violent, sexually-oriented cinema, you wonder what brought him to Showgirls, a movie about a young woman trying to make waves in Las Vegas. In the movie, a relatively unknown actress was supposed to catapult to stardom. Elizabeth Berkley portrayed Nomi Malone, the movie's main character. Even at the time of its release, some critics considered the movie a hoot, a kind of garish cult addition to the ranks boldly stated, luridly colored satire. Director Jeffrey McHale draws heavily on critic Adam Nayman to explain why Showgirls deserves another look. Other voices chime in, mostly in agreement that Verhoeven knew precisely what he was doing. Put another way,  Showgirls shouldn't be taken as an example of a talented director who simply missed the boat.  Look, I'm not going to belabor this review in the way that the movie belabors its message. But I'm not buying the idea that yesterday's crap deserves elevation as a misunderstood gem.  McHale's documentary didn't change my mind about Showgirls and I probably should point out that I've mostly admired Verhoeven's movies. OK, maybe I'll someday get around to another viewing of Showgirls but seeing clips from the movie didn't make me eager for a return visit.

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