The naive country bumpkin Nomi (Elizabeth Berkley) arrives in Las Vegas with a suitcase containing all her belongings in order to make it big. Shortly after arrival, her belongings are stolen and the blue-eyed girl ends up penniless in a rancid strip joint. Since Nomi knows how to move on the pole, she attracts the attention of Cristal (Gina Gershon). Nomi arranges this for the sleazy Zack (Kyle MacLachlan), who is the manager of the infamous Stardust and wants to engage her for the dance show ‘Goddess’. But on her way to her desired goal, Nomi has to learn that behind the glittering backdrop of Vegas, envy and resentment reign…
There is hardly a better film to describe the term ‘guilty pleasure’. The Internet says that ‘guilty pleasure’ is a movie (or a show or a song) that you like, even though you know it is actually crap. And Showgirls really has a lot to make fun of; flashy clothes, a lot of naked skin, exaggerated characters and a story that is handed out with a large trowel. And you can also have a good laugh about the image of women conveyed. But since there are also enough women who recognize the (entertainment) value of the film and celebrate it just as much as the transvestite community, Showgirls is almost rehabilitated. In addition, Showgirls is almost cult-like adored in the gay community; similar to a garishly exaggerated The Rocky Horror Picture Show. So it seems that director Paul Verhoeven has done something right.
The naked wave
In the 90s there was this wave of erotic shavings, triggered by the 92 mega success Basic Instinct. In 1993, Madonna in Body of Evidence dripped hot wax on Willem Daffoe’s asparagus breast, while Sharon Stone made her new fame at face value with Sliver. In 1994 Bruce Willis showed his wiener in the debacle Color of Night, the following year Demi Moore lounged in striptease and in 1997 followed One Night Stand, which nobody really wanted to see anymore. The interest in glossy eroticism was as quickly extinguished as it was inflamed. The still moderate interest in sliver and striptease was undoubtedly pushed into the headlines by Stone as a new sex symbol (in the former) and Demi Moore’s exorbitant fee of 12.5 million dollars and thus into the cinema charts. A sum that Showgirls star Elizabeth Berkley didn’t even begin to scratch. And since Showgirls was denied the big success, they were never allowed to go anywhere near it. The 100,000 dollar fee for the film, which was to be her breakthrough – and was the nail in her coffin. Before Berkley, Pamela Anderson, Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron and others rejected the role of Nomi. They all probably knew more than Berkley.
For fun on the surface
But what makes Showgirls so special and so much better that it became a cult? Very simple: Showgirls entertains! Showgirls is really exciting! And Showgirls is simply aware of what it is! Namely, a shiny surface that makes you want to sit there with your mouth open. Everything is bright, colorful and glittering. Author Eszterhas and director Verhoeven were aware of what they were producing. Stupidest dialogues, ridiculous dance scenes and clumsy sex – Eszterhas openly admitted in an interview that after the success of Basic Instinct, they both literally lost their grip on reality. “We thought we could do what we want and go as far as we want,” he said in 1997. You can just imagine Verhoeven sitting on the set giggling and enjoying his six million dollar salary. And next to him, cameraman Jost Vacano, who has already filmed Verhoeven’s RoboCop and Total Recall, creates an optical masterpiece of light and shadow. Seldom has a thoroughly spoiled and ugly story been so beautifully illustrated. No wonder he continued to film for Verhoeven and two years later he made one of the best war movies with Starship Troopers.
Actually, Showgirls is a big-city fairy tale in which every character is assigned his or her role. Nomi is sweet and innocent, Cristal the spoiled bitch and Zack greasy and spoiled. But Showgirls is a little bit more than that, it’s about showing and settling accounts with the all american dream. And to make it to something here, you have to do what you have to do or what they demand of you. Maybe then you have a chance to get some glamour. But mostly you are just one face among many.
The new Mediabook Edition not only offers first-class picture and sound quality, but also has an abundance of extras. In addition to an interview with cameraman Jost Vacano, an informative audio commentary and a thick booklet, there is an extra disc with the 90-minute documentary You don’t Nomi, which is devoted in detail to the creation and cult of showgirls.