Showgirls (1995)
February 9, 2016 7:02 PM - Subscribe

A young drifter, named Nomi, arrives in Las Vegas to become a dancer and soon sets about clawing and pushing her way to become the top of the Vegas showgirls.

NYTimes: With fearless investigative zeal, Paul Verhoeven and Joe Ezsterhas, the director and writer of "Basic Instinct," decided to blow the lid off Las Vegas lap dancing and everything it stands for. This quest for truth forced Mr. Verhoeven to watch nearly every big Vegas nightclub show and Mr. Ezsterhas to experience lap dancing on an up-close, personal basis. The research must have been murder. But it was vital if the end product, "Showgirls," were to hold a mirror up to society while lucratively turning the Motion Picture Association of America's rating system into a joke.

Unfortunately, the strain of trying to make America's dirtiest big-studio movie has led Mr. Verhoeven and Ms. Ezsterhas to create an instant camp classic. And the surprise is that despite the intense steaminess of "Basic Instinct," ""Showgirls" is, in every sense, not so hot.

Roger Ebert: The film is not, in short, quite unredeemably bad, and despite its NC-17 rating, it isn't anywhere near as perverted as "Basic Instinct." The actors throw themselves into it with the abandon that material like this demands, and Verhoeven brings to it the same skill he once lavished on good movies, like "The Fourth Man" and "Total Recall." It's just that you can't believe a single second of it, and you do begin to wish that in his research for his next project, Eszterhas makes it his business to learn something about eroticism.

Los Angeles Times: Everything you feared it might be and less, "Showgirls" is a movie made to be exploited, not seen. Both in print and in the TV teaser trailers, this picture manages to appear more involving and provocative than it actually is. No one is expecting "Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould," but even in the pulp trash genre certain minimal standards must be observed.

Instead, perhaps hypnotized into somnolence by all that nudity, Verhoeven and Eszterhas have neglected to provide the kind of passion and energy this kind of material cannot exist without. Lacking the combustible Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas in leading roles, "Showgirls" descends into incoherent tedium. Though the filmmakers' incessant talk about vision, artistry and honest self-expression lead one to expect a sexually explicit biopic about the Dalai Lama, what is in fact provided is depressing and disappointing as well as dehumanizing.

Slant: Ultimately, Showgirls is one of the most honest satires of recent years because, as Noël Burch wrote in the aforementioned Film Quarterly roundtable, it “takes mass culture seriously, as a site of both fascination and struggle. And it takes despised melodrama seriously too, as indeed an excellent vehicle for social criticism.” Unfortunately, the critical and public brickbats thrown at Showgirls (to say nothing of the hosannas foisted upon those concurrent Austen travesties) demonstrates that most prefer satire when it’s dealing with the distant past to the extent that one can feel morally superior to the subject of ridicule without recognizing oneself in the mix.


12 Stripped-down facts about Showgirls

The real reason Elizabeth Berkley was so over the top in Showgirls

Elizabeth Berkley on why she stopped dancing after Showgirls

The restorative powers of Showgirls

Elizabeth Berkley finally comes to terms with Showgirls

See the cast of Showgirls then and now

Paul Verhoeven on the greatest stripper movie ever made

Showgirls at 20: It's not satire, it's old-school, misanthropic Paul Verhoeven

Is Showgirls the greatest bad movie of all time?

What it's like to watch the famously bad Showgirls for the first time

How Paul Verhoeven survived Showgirls and turned his back on Hollywood

Showgirls is a good movie

Does it suck? Another look at Showgirls

Happy Birthday, Nomi Malone! How Showgirls went from tragic to classic

Confirmed: Showgirls is still terrible

Why does this exist? Showgirls review (part 1)

Use Giphy to make Showgirls gifs
posted by MoonOrb (19 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There's an episode of Dinner for Five where Gina Gershon talks about being in this movie, and what a disaster it was.
posted by axiom at 7:21 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Showgirls has one of the most unintentionally hilarious sex scenes ever filmed- the Happy Dolphin scene, AKA "Stripper meets Flipper". It really is the Heavens Gate of softcore films.
posted by happyroach at 12:04 AM on February 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

I've always thought the only reason to watch this movie is if you don't have The Sisters of Mercy's "Vision Thing" on CD.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:07 AM on February 10, 2016

The reason to watch the movie is so that you know what's going on in its illegal sequel, "Showgirls 2: Penny's from Heaven," made by and starring the incomparable Rena Riffel, reprising her small role in the original film as the star of this one, and, since she also acted in "Mulholland Drive," it's also a sort of sequel to that.

It has only one star on IMDB, which is probably fair, and yet it is so good. My god is it good.
posted by maxsparber at 11:22 AM on February 10, 2016

Nomi Malone.

At the beginning of the film, Nomi is hitchhiking to Las Vegas, she is the newly arrived ingenue ready to make her mark as a dancer in glittering Las Vegas. Her name can be read as "know me - alone," as to say, "I want to be known, I want to be famous, just me, the star dancer, by herself, conquering Vegas."

At the end of the film, Nomi is hitchhiking to Los Angeles, dejectedly abandoning her dreams, jaded and world-weary from her mistreatment in Las Vegas. Her name can be read as "no me, alone," as to say, "there is no me, I've been hollowed out by my experience, I am again by myself, but this time without hope."
posted by Falconetti at 1:19 PM on February 10, 2016

extra thanks to MoonOrb for putting together all of the links for this. I really love that this movie exists just because it's supremely easy to talk about it because there is simultaneously SO MUCH and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING there, and I'm very interested in going through these links.
posted by dogwalker at 6:04 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I saw this movie in the theater when it came out with a lesbian friend. We were clinging to each other laughing and just about split our ribs during the movie, and I don't think either of us have ever seen another film with both so much nudity and yet absolutely nothing sexy.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:05 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was in the fifth grade when this movie came out, and a girl at my table at school saw it, somehow. She told us the entire plot at recess in absurd, graphic, incoherent detail. I haven't been able to bring myself to actually watch the film because I feel it could never live up to Janine's rendition of it.
posted by town of cats at 8:51 PM on February 10, 2016 [15 favorites]

Like Dip Flash, I saw it with a friend (on VHS) and we HOWLED. Later my boyfriend (now husband) didn't believe me that you could actually go boob numb watching it. So we watched it (yes, I've seen this thing TWICE), and he had to agree.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 9:30 PM on February 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is, perhaps, not Kyle MacLachlan's finest moment as an actor.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:55 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

This movie was a milestone for me coming to terms with being queer. Because if I could watch 2 hours of boobs and not get even remotely turned on, then that meant I wasn't all that into women, right?

It wasn't until years later that I learned that nobody thought this was a sexy movie.
posted by Banknote of the year at 5:54 AM on February 11, 2016 [10 favorites]







i honestly can't remember if that's a quote from the movie or a gestalt impression and i'm not sure if i need to know?
posted by Sebmojo at 11:09 PM on February 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

"What did you win?"
posted by Artw at 10:58 PM on February 13, 2016

Gina Gershon keeps licking Kyle MacLachlan. I just wanted to hear a big slurpy ol' sound effect every time she did it.
posted by h00py at 4:01 PM on February 15, 2016

In the Cut: Showgirls [self-link]
posted by churl at 11:30 AM on March 12, 2016

Greetings from Quarantine 2020. I just watched this for the first time — I paid real money, because it's not streaming for free — and putting my feelings aside* — I kid you not, immediately after the credits finished my television broke. That's the power of this film.

*I haaaated it. It's like someone gave a 12-year-old future incel $40m to make a movie.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:37 AM on June 20, 2020

Her character is so bad at everything, no wonder she’s so angry. I mean, she can’t even eat food, she’s probably starving.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:10 PM on August 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Note that, given the year, the movies Slant is throwing shade at must be...the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice and the Emma Thompson-Kate Winslet Sense and Sensibility.
posted by praemunire at 4:51 PM on August 19, 2022

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