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Showgirls: The Beautiful Disaster
There are three different types of movies in this world. The good, The bad and the So Bad-it's Good. The third category is quite the cinematic riddle. How the hell does these movies even happen? What's the thought process behind the making of such cult classics as The Room, Plan 9 From Outer Space, From Justin To Kelly and other movies that make us laugh like hyenas? Well today, we are going to try to solve one of these riddles. It's time to figure out why "people got Aids and shit" in Showgirls.
Showgirls is truly...something. It's something to laugh at and something to behold in many different ways. The entire time you're watching it you just think to yourself "Did I miss something"? Or maybe you're thinking "What's the point of all this"? Perhaps you're thinking "Does sex in a pool really make you bat shit insane"? Showgirls really is a bundle of questions that may have no answers at all. But there's no harm in trying to answer these questions. Now this is not going to be a "review". It's going to be more of a film study of Showgirls. We're going to dissect this movie and just find out why it's enjoyable despite it being absolutely horrible in all creative departments. Well enough fooling around, let's take look at the beautiful disaster that is Showgirls.
Notice how I use the word "story" in quotations. I write the word "Story" this way because the actual plot of Showgirls is kind of basic when you really think about it. A woman goes to Vegas with a dream of being a famous dancer, she goes through a lot of questionable things to get famous, rises to the top, figures famous life is not for her and leaves it all behind her. Supposedly, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas took a lot of inspiration from the Bette Davis film All About Eve and boy does it show. We are going to get into the movie's message a little later, but for now I will say the theme of this movie is really hammered in. Every story element and every character in this movie are tools to the big message of "show business is EVIL". Another weird element with Showgirls is it's use of sex. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but this movie seems to have a "sex is EVIL" component as well. Even when characters have sexual encounters it leads them to do crazy, stupid, insane and even evil things. While I do agree sometimes sex makes things complicated between two people, I'm sure it doesn't make you evil or act like a dolphin in heat.
We come to possibly one of the more interesting elements of Showgirls: the characters. Before we get into this portion I would like to say that despite how crazy and stupid these characters are, it's not the at the fault of the cast. Every actor or actress comes off so bad in this movie but really it's not their fault. Elizabeth Berkley in particular got a lot of flack for this performance and her career was never the same after Showgirls. Berkley and the rest of the cast are clearly trying to make their roles work, but you can't make a role work when you have laughably bad writing and shitty direction on a film set.
With all that being said, let's take a look at the characters of Showgirls. Every character is either really stupid, really insane or just there for no reason. Nomi Malone (Berkley) falls between insane and stupid. Throughout her journey through the showgirl business, there are a lot of red flags telling her to get out of this line of work but she just goes with it for no real reason. Along with that, Nomi's transition from innocent dreamer to fame hungry schemer is so rushed you'll be thinking Anakin Skywalker's path to being Darth Vader is decent character development. Again, I know what this movie is trying to show but it's very lopsided. The character of Nomi Malone is a very passive role, things happen to her and she goes with it no questions asked. Nomi doesn't take any real action until the last 15 minutes of the film's 2 HR 8 Min running time.
The supporting characters are again just tools to the film's anti show business theme. There's a pervert boss of a strip club, a sentimental best friend, an entertainment director who's beyond slimy, a prima donna who loves throwing Nomi into uncomfortable situations and yet has a weird attraction to her. There are several other superfluous characters here but really there's only one I find completely pointless to the story. That character is James (Glenn Plummer) a romantic interest for Nomi that goes absolutely nowhere. At first, you're thinking maybe James and Nomi are going to have a some sort of relationship that will last or maybe won't last. However he cheats on Nomi (even though they weren't even in a relationship and yet Nomi gets upset like they were in one) and there's some stupid goodbye scene. In fact, a lot of characters have goodbye scenes with Nomi. It really is like the script knows when these characters need to leave the film and just set up goodbye scenes that aren't really heart felt except for maybe one.
The only character I find myself legitimately liking is Molly (Gina Ravera). Granted, she's the clichéd best friend character you see in a lot of movies but at least she's not trying to shame, fuck or otherwise demean Nomi in some way. Plus Ravera gives possibly the only decent performance throughout the entire movie.
SHOW BUSINESS IS EVIL DAMNIT!
Now I guess it's time to really look at why Showgirls just doesn't work. It really revolves around the whole around message this film beats you over the head with. Aside from the weird situations Nomi gets involved in, every character involved with the "Goddess" show or just in show business generally are evil for no real reason. The film's script never explains how show business changed these supposedly once sane people into evil sex monsters. Then again, we've already covered the fact that Joe Eszterhas has no idea how character development works.
So why doesn't the film work as a whole? Well I think director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas weren't on the same page with Showgirls. Verhoeven's vision for the film was an over the top morality tale with a satirical look at show business in Las Vegas. Well... I guess he got the "over the top" part right. Eszterhas on the other hand wanted Showgirls to be a serious drama looking at the Las Vegas stripper business and looking at it's effects on women. At one point, Eszterhas compared watching Showgirls to a "religious experience". Unless he meant losing faith in cinema, that's a really stupid statement surrounding a film that has a pool sex scene so hilarious you'll think it came out of an SNL sketch.
One more question remains though, even though Showgirls is so incoherently bad then why is it so loved? Honestly, I think the over the top moral works to the film's advantage. Granted, it works in a different way than intended but it works nonetheless. No character is natural, no story element works and every situation is so impossibly over the top it's hard not to laugh at it. It lives in it's own warped and demented version of reality. So to put it simply, I highly recommend Showgirls to any bad movie buff out there. With that being said, if this movie looks painful to you avoid it. Now remember guys..."everybody got Aids and Shit"!