Showgirls (1997) 

April 19 & April 26, Midnight Tickets

1. I love Showgirls. I looooove Showgirls. I think I even like it more than Robocop, which says a lot considering how close to perfect that movie is. If there was a fire in my apartment and I could only save my copy of Showgirls, my copy of Robocop or my cat Maggie, it would be a really long time before I ran out with my blu-ray of Showgirls, shitty bonus features and all. Sorry, Maggie, Showgirls doesn’t throw up on my pillow as much as you do.

2. It’s easy to take Showgirls as “masterpiece,” with great big douchey air quotes around it, but there’s something really special about a movie this utterly insane. Even though it fails on every conceivable level, I always hesitate to call Showgirls a bad movie – it’s too engrossing, baffling and silly to be simply categorized as bad, and it’s a little too interesting for the “so-bad-it’s-good” stamp. It certainly accomplishes something, I just don’t know what.

3. Though I don’t really like writer David Schmader’s smug, riff-y audio commentary, I think he does nail what ultimately makes Showgirls interesting: there’s real talent behind this movie. This wasn’t some cheap tripe made by an amateur manure salesman, this was a major studio release put out by a great director, yet somehow, over the course of a production that involved hundreds of professionals, nobody seemed to think any of this was a bad idea.

4. Paul Verhoeven really is a great director. He’s an auteur whose best movies hinge on surface level trash giving way for smart social commentary that’s hidden just beneath. Typically his vision is pretty clear, but I can’t crack what the hell he was thinking with Showgirls. It’s trashy inside and out – purely surface layer nonsense with no clear intellectual agenda cooking underneath.

5. Elizabeth Berkley is straight-up FIERCE in this movie as young upstart topless dancing star Nomi Malone. She has an admirable unearned confidence to her and she’s in great shape, certainly, but she hits every mark way too hard, amping ever move she makes to such an epileptic-level that you start to worry about her mental well-being. She flails about like speed freak for the entire movie, always looking half-a-second away from punching someone’s lights out. And the way she has sex? Oh, man.

6. The legendary pool sex scene in Showgirls is kind of the centerpiece of the film, taking all of the film’s best components – neon-everything, Kyle Machlachlan’s hair, nudity and Elizabeth Berkley’s flailing – and crams them all into one wonderful scene depicting a woman nearly drowning as she dolphin flops around on  a rich man’s junk.

7. Which brings me to another point: Who on Earth thinks anything like this is sexy? Nothing is sexy in Showgirls, it might even be the least erotic thing I’ve ever seen. With all the stripper pole-licking, public masturbation and near constant talk of period blood, the movie has all of the erotic charms of a VD clinic.

8. I read an anecdote about this movie’s premiere once that I’m pretty sure isn’t true, but I’m going to retell it because it’s awesome. Apparently, during the film’s premiere, Kyle Maclachlan stormed out of the theater, frustrated with the picture because, as he put it, he thought they were making art – or something like that. I can’t even find where I read that, so let’s just pretend it’s true.

9. Showgirls does have one great, big, glaring flaw and it’s not the bad dancing or monkey shit talk, it’s the uncharacteristically violent gang rape scene of Nomi’s friend Molly. Showgirls has an overall tone of silliness that runs through it, which makes all of the trash and bad taste palatable, but this rape scene is a nasty, violent piece of work that leaves what might be the movie’s only nice character a bloody, broken mess. It kind of ruins the end of the movie, really.

10. Apparently there’s a Showgirls 2, directed by Rena Reffel, the woman who played one of Nomi’s up-start stripper friends, and it’s about what happens to her character as she tries to climb the ladder to fame. Well… That certainly can’t be good.