Showgirls (1995)
Showgirls (1995)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 8 min.

Release Date: September 22nd, 1995 MPAA Rating: NC-17

Director: Paul Verhoeven Actors: Elizabeth Berkley, Gina Gershon, Kyle MacLachlan, Robert Davi, Glenn Plummer, Alan Rachins, Gina Ravera, Lin Tucci, Greg Travis, Patrick Bristow, Bobbie Phillips, Rena Riffel

 


 

“I

‘m gonna dance.” Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) hitches a ride to Las Vegas with dreams of being a showgirl. She’s smart enough to carry a knife with her in the event the driver (Dewey Weber) gets frisky, but she’s inexperienced enough to get too comfortable when he suggests that she leave her suitcase in his truck while he talks to his uncle at the Riviera. In a new city with no friends or family, Nomi quickly finds that she also has no luggage and no money.

“Sooner or later you’re gonna have to sell it.” But six weeks afterward, with a bit of extreme luck, she’s found herself sharing a place with Molly Abrams (Gina Ravera), who works in the wardrobe department for a notable exotic stage show that has just acquired desirable performer Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon). Nomi also learns that she has to work on her incredibly thin skin when the major star insults the fact that Nomi is employed at Cheetahs Topless Lounge – a strip club that doesn’t qualify as real dancing (as real as topless chorus line dancing, anyway). Even though Nomi is starting her career at the bottom and Cristal is at the top, a rivalry soon forms – one in which Cristal unintentionally aids in her own replacement (channeling “All About Eve” but with extreme modernization, like gratuitous sex).

Problematically, Nomi isn’t just a girl in over her head or an underdog (it should also be mentioned that Berkley isn’t much of an actress). She also takes pride in stirring up trouble, doesn’t take anything seriously, harbors a secretive past, and doesn’t treat her friends with much care. It’s understandable that she’s distrusting, but she’s not sympathetic, which is terribly detrimental to molding her into a worthy protagonist.

It does help, however, that she’s surrounded by some alarmingly crass, misogynistic, chauvinistic, ruthless people, including strip club owner Al Torres (Robert Davi – “This is a class joint”) and show producer Tony Moss (Alan Rachins), who goes out of his way to be cruel. “Sell your bodies!” Even the intermittent love interest, Glenn Plummer as James Smith, is scripted to be a cad. By the end of the film, everyone – including playboy Zack Carey (Kyle MacLachlan) and big-time entertainer Andrew Carver (William Shockley) – is cutthroat, immoral, phony, backstabbing, or just plain horrible. In the world of “Showgirls,” life, it seems, is populated solely by disagreeable, insincere, miserable people. If the purpose is to affirm the notion that only the most desperate, depraved, iniquitous, pitiful souls end up in the Vegas showbiz scene – and can’t escape untarnished – this picture is certainly convincing.

Ultimately, however, the film isn’t about character development or an engaging plot (which is something of a surprise, considering the screenplay is by Joe Eszterhas, who made his mark with “Basic Instinct”). Virtually the entire running time is devoted to glistening, taut, gyrating figures in varying stages of undress (and they certainly look good, even if there’s limited entertainment value). When the main characters aren’t naked just for show, they’re stripping, rehearsing, trying on costumes, practicing their writhing maneuvers, or having sex in a pool behind a mansion (in a notorious sequence that is so badly designed it’s downright comical).

The entire picture isn’t an exercise in eroticism as much as it’s a jumbled series of excuses to have the cast take off their clothes (not unlike simply watching an actual Vegas showgirl performance). Even during marginally serious interactions, there’s an inescapable sense of disingenuousness. But worse than the unlikable personas and the general ugliness (just when one might think the film couldn’t get severer, another, more ignominious character makes an entrance to engage in further reprehensible acts) is the length, which feels hours longer than it is.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10