Holding the record for the most amount of Golden Raspberry nominations (standing at 13 nominations, though the record-holder of wins is Battlefield Earth), this film is so much a piece of cinematic excrement I have to actually marvel at it. Now, understand this: This film was panned by critics and did abysmally in theaters. However, Showgirls enjoyed success on the home video market, generating more than $100 million from video rentals and became one of MGM's top 20 all-time bestsellers. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is responsible for the production and release of Alan Parker’s Fame and Pink Floyd: The Wall, William Wyler’s epic Ben-Hur, Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, Ron Howard and George Lucas’s Willow and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and this is one of it’s highest grossing films? No justice, seriously…But my personal prejudices aside, let’s take a look at this film.
This is something that I hate and like at the same time, and it’s not for the obvious reasons of the overabundance of sexual material. Joe Eszterhas was a senior editor of Rolling Stone Magazine in the early 70s before he became a screenwriter, writing the story and screenplay for the Stallone train wreck F.I.S.T. in 1978. This was not a very promising career start, but hey, Janusz Kaminski got his start on Vanilla Ice’s Cool as Ice and went on to be the cinematographer on Schindler’s List and since then has been Spielberg's golden boy. So I might be too judgmental, since the next project he was involved with was co-writing the screenplay of Adrian Lyne’s Flashdance.
First, since the screenwriter was the bulk of the last paragraph, the screenplay is laughable at best. This could have been a mildly respectable script if handled correctly, however Eszterhas fumbles over himself to give a screenplay that even the actors in Blackula would greet with a nice laugh. The plot is muddled by the constant sex and sexual violence, sacrificing substance for flesh scenes, much like Tinto Brass’s Caligula. The characters portrayed are flat and uninteresting, regardless how much clothes they lose or pelvises they thrust against, they are simply boring to watch. And considering the fact that the main character was played by one of the bland leads from Saved by the Bell, Elizabeth Berkeley, it's not too surprising I didn’t care for anything surrounding this protagonist, regardless of what happens to her. I was surprised that Kyle MacLachlan, who gained fame from David Lynch’s Dune and Blue Velvet, was also just as bland and tiresome as Berkeley, which was a major surprise to me due to the fact that I rarely think that he is at all tiresome to watch, even in The Flintstones Movie of all things. However, I digress.
When we first meet the main character Nomi Malone (played by Berkeley), she's hitchhiking in Nevada. She has a forgettable encounter with some country-schlock and it leaves her broke and aimless and then the character Molly, played by Gina Rivera, finds her wandering in traffic. Granted, the opening isn’t necessarily a bad beginning to a film; however, the way the dialogue is structured and the acting is played out, it makes it an agonizingly bland and hopeless sequence of scenes. And that is usually the mark of a bad film: when the stasis is tiring to get through.
However, I will say this. Even though most of the cast were bland and their acting was torturously bad, one actress I actually find was at least standard in her delivery if nothing else: Gina Gershon. Sure, she received a Razzie nomination along with the bulk of her billed cast, but I actually think her acting wasn’t as bad as the rest of them, which is probably the best compliment you could give her performance. And believe me, this does not apply to all parts of her performance, just the general impression.
That said, this script is all about sex, breasts and dancing, which it reminds you constantly over and over and over again. And many people who frequent theaters know that those aspects do not conjure up a good film. Maybe a half decent porno, but that’s about it. Even pornographic films have more of a leg up than Showgirls; just watch Joone’s film Pirates and you might probably agree.
However, we move on to the actual technical aspects of the film. The cinematography can actually be unique at times, and during the more grandiose scenes it actually is quite effective. However, there are many times where the angling is awkward, the shots come out blurry or ill-focused and the framing is far from correct. But you could see that if you nitpicked any film, really. The costuming and set decoration I do have to give kudos to, it actually wasn’t all that bad. The costumes were mildly creative and eye catching, the sets, for what they are worth, are well chosen and utilized well, and each location is proper for the scene that takes place. However it is nothing compared to other great Vegas films like Casino and Ocean’s Eleven.
The score is plain and typical, utilizing music of the era, but without memorable scenes in which the songs were used. And overall, the direction of the film was just subpar to the fullest. Lazily moving through the motions. However, in regards to that, director Paul Verhoeven, who put out good movies like Starship Troopers (ironically right after this mess), RoboCop, and his BAFTA nominated film Black Book, has been recorded as stating that he intentionally made a bad film. And considering how out-of-the-box-and-mind that Verhoeven has been proven to be, I wouldn’t put it past him. And if this is actually the case, then he succeeded admirably. He is also the first recorded person ever to go to the Razzie Awards Ceremony and collect his award for Worst Director. So, regardless of the quality of this film, I applaud its director nonetheless.
You could watch this film a dozen times and find what is more and more wrong with it every time you stick your eyes to the screen. I give this film a whopping ½ Star, only because Paul Verhoeven achieved what he had set out to do, but the rest can just swirl in the drain. That is it. Until next time.