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  • Suzanna Kempner

Showgirls

What do you get if you cross All About Eve with endless nudity? You get Showgirls, Paul Verhoven’s classic so-bad-it’s-good movie. As it turns the big 2-0 has Showgirls aged well like Kyle MachLachlan’s career or badly...like Elizabeth Berkley’s career? The only way I can truly rate or date Showgirls is with a detailed plot summary. It’s the only way I can accurately convey the magic of this movie.


We open on our heroine, the aptly-named Nomi (no, me!), played by Elizabeth Berkley in her first role since Saved By The Bell. And BOY is she trying to prove that she can play with the grown- ups. Her opening gambit is to pull a knife on the sleazy guy who just picked her up hitchhiking and it’s the first of many weirdly aggressive acts from Nomi. Not that it matters, everyone in this movie is inexplicably drawn to her no matter how poorly she treats them. Case in point: Nomi’s suitcase gets stolen by the sleazy guy and the film’s only sympathetic character, Molly, takes pity on her. Why she takes pity on her I have zero clue because Nomi is punching Molly's car (seriously) in anguish at her stolen case and when Molly intervenes Nomi runs in to traffic. Molly pulls her out of traffic and Nomi immediately vomits. I’m serious, guys, that happens in this movie. They hug and Molly buys Nomi a basket of french fries. Nomi aggressively throws the fries in the air because Molly asks where she’s from. Molly says Nomi can move in with her. Why does she do this? Because Showgirls.


We cut to 6 weeks later and Molly and Nomi are getting along just fine living in Molly’s one- bedroom trailer. Fun fact: in 1995 Joe Eszterhas’ screenplay for Showgirls was the most expensive script ever sold. Watching how he reckons 2 women alone interract means the $2million spent on the screenplay (SERIOUSLY) can only have been a money laundering scheme. Molly strips down to her matching underwear set while they giggle at the fact that all the crisps are gone. This is what girls do when they live together.


Nomi can’t be arsed to go to work so she goes with Molly to her job as a seamstress at the Stardust casino’s topless dance show. The show is...well, it’s something. The amount of nudity in Showgirls is legendary. Elizabeth Berkley in particular is topless for probably a third of her screentime but the first nudity we get is in the Stardust’s show. Gina Gershon plays our antagonist, Cristal, the lead dancer. She emerges topless from a volcano and dances around. Nomi watches, mimicking the dance moves. I also mimic the dance moves. All the time. The dance moves in this film are insane.


After the show Molly takes Nomi to meet Cristal. Cristal doesn’t show Nomi maximum respect so Nomi immediately flips out at her. That’s so Nomi! Like everyone in this movie, Cristal immediately gets obsessed with her and I should probably talk about the acting performances here. Showgirls is a tacky exploitation flick and I feel like Gina Gershon totally gets that. I feel like Elizabeth Berkley really didn’t, it’s as if she thinks she’s in a serious gritty takedown of the entertainment industry when really she should have been camping things up. Imagine your career high being Saved By The Bell...poor Elizabeth Berkley.


To cheer Nomi up after her unneccessary freak-out at Cristal she and Molly go to a nightclub. A character called James instantly takes a liking to Nomi and tells her he could teach her to dance. She responds by kneeing him in the goolies and starts a massive fight, leading to her arrest. Naturally. James bails her out of jail (because Showgirls) and asks her to go for coffee. She tells him to “back off, motherfucker”. Our loveable protagonist, ladies and gents!

Now it’s time to see Nomi at work: the Cheetah stripclub. The club’s compere (stripclub’s have comperes, guys, this is Showgirls) Henrietta will blow your mind. Henrietta’s empowers women by going out on stage and telling the baying crowd that she’s really fat and none of them want to have sex with her. Erm...girl power? Nomi goes out to do her extremely aggressive strip and who is in the crowd? None other than Cristal flanked by Kyle MacLachlan. He’s the entertainment manager at the Stardust or something. I don’t know. She offers Nomi $500 to give MacLachlan a solo lap dance. What follows is Jesse from Saved By The Bell going full frontal and flailing around on MacLachlan like a dolphin until he, fully-clothed, proper jizzes. I should tell you that nothing in Showgirls is ever sexy. My description accurately portrays how sexy this scene is. Oh, and James, the guy who bailed Nomi out of jail earlier, watches the whole thing from the doorway. Why are you there James? Why? It doesn’t matter. Showgirls.


The next day James rocks up at Molly and Nomi’s trailer (nobody asks how he found out where Nomi lives). He says she shouldn’t do that lap dancing stuff because “man, everybody got AIDS and shit”. Remember guys, this script cost $2million. Nomi and Molly go shopping with her lapdancing money and Nomi buys a dress from Versace. She then gets an audition for the Stardust’s topless show and is so excited.


The audition scene is incredible. Nomi is asked to put ice on her nipples as part of the audition and runs away. Who is outside? Why James of course! Nomi goes back to James’ house and they sexy-dance, then Nomi says she’s on her period and leaves. I think we’re meant to think Nomi will end up with James eventually but, like virtually every storyline in Showgirls it grinds to a wooly halt. Nomi finds out she got the job at the Stardust (what!?) and goes straight back to James’ house to tell him. He’s there with another girl. Oh James! End of this subplot. What purpose did James’ character serve? I guess we’ll never know.

Nomi has a fairly successful first night as a topless dancer at the Stardust show. She then goes out for lunch with Cristal and they bond over the fact they both used to eat dog food. I...just have no idea, sorry, I can’t explain this. Cristal dances with Nomi and calls her a whore. This means war apparently. Nomi wears her Versace dress to work and keeps pronouncing it ‘Ver-sayce’ because apparently that’s believable. MacLachlan is charmed by how stupid and bitchy she is and takes her back to his place. What follows is pool sex. I can’t accurately describe what goes on in the pool but Nomi’s abs must be really strong.

Back at the Stardust Nomi finally has enough of Cristal and pushes her down a flight of stairs. Woah, Nomi, dafuq!? Cristal’s out of the picture and Molly is the only one who saw what Nomi did and can’t forgive her. Nomi, you’re wrecking your friendships! Nomi replaces Cristal as the star of the topless dance show and Kyle MacLachlan throws her a massive party. He buys her a metallic blue pleather jacket and mini skirt set. I know Showgirls is 20 years old but I’m pretty sure metallic blue pleather was always heinous. At the party is a famous rock singer called Andrew Carver, Molly’s pin-up. Nomi tells Molly that Carver will be at the party and Molly instantly forgives Nomi and they are BFFs again. What’s that, Showgirls? Another subplot that went nowhere? Well I’ll be damned!


Molly goes with Andrew Carver to a bedroom and is totally DTF and then, in a tonal shift so enormous you could see it from space, there is a really brutal gang-rape. It is such a WTF moment. Molly goes to hospital and Kyle MacLachlan tells Nomi that she can’t go to the police coz Andrew Carver is his bezzie. He says that if Nomi tells the police he’ll spill the beans on Nomi’s real past - she was an actual prostitute before she came to Vegas! Nomi decides she’d rather take matters in to her own hands so she paints her nipples bright pink (I’m not kidding, that happens) and goes to see Andrew Carver. She kicks his head in while topless then goes to Molly and says “I kicked the shit out of him” and smiles as if to say “there you go, it’s like it never happened” and then immediately leaves town when her friend probably really needed her. Well, she doesn’t leave immediately, first she goes to see Cristal in her hospital bed. They have a massive snog and then Nomi hitchhikes again. Who is the driver who picks her up? The sleaze who stole her suitcase from the beginning. What are the odds!?!??! “What did you win?” he asks Nomi. She takes off her sunglasses and answers “me”. End of movie. What does “me” mean? Never mind...that’s Showgirls.


So, rated or dated? Let’s face it, I just ragged on this film for over 1000 words. It’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. The writing is awful, the tone is all over the place and it looks gaudy and cheap. And it’s totally rated. Guys, you’ve got to see this flick. It is hands-down one of the most watchable pieces of trash in the whole of cinema. Get a bunch of friends round and have a Showgirls party. But remember....everybody got AIDS and shit.

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