While perhaps the most famous Bad Movie of the 1990s, Showgirls is hardly the most enjoyable to watch. Basically, it's a remake (rip-off, really) of All About Eve, the Hollywood classic about a bitchy fading female star who is targeted by an ambitious, amoral up-and-coming starlet. Of course, in All About Eve the setting was Broadway. Here it's Las Vegas, and the treasured position is as star of a "classy" nude review at a casino.
The lead "character" is Nomi (SUBTEXT ALERT!!! "NOMI" IS PRONOUNCED "NO ME", INDICATING THE CHARACTER'S LACK OF SELF ESTEEM. GET IT?). Nomi hitches a ride into Vegas, where she immediately gets her suitcase stolen. Luckily for her, Nomi is immediately adopted by Molly, the only character in the entire film who isn't a monster or creep of some sort (Uh oh. That only leaves "victim"). Nomi gets works at a "lap dancing" club. However, she dreams of the "glamour" possessed by Crystal Connors, who is lead dancer in Goddess, a ridiculous "erotic" dance review at the Stardust Casino.
The film chronicles what is supposed to be the corruption of Nomi as she pursues her goal. One problem: Nomi is such a psychotic bitch from the first minute we meet her that it's hard to take her "corruption" seriously. For instance, there's her habit of going violently psycho whenever someone tells her she's a whore (which happens about every ten minutes or so). Plus, even if she's not technically a whore, her lap dancing activities are close enough that it's difficult for the audience to bother drawing the distinction, much less care about it.
Nomi eventually pushes Crystal down a flight of stairs in order to obtain her job. While this is supposed to represent her final corruption, it seems like something she might have done at the beginning of the movie anyway. (In a hilarious coda, Crystal tells Nomi that she got her first lead by also pushing someone down stairs. Apparently, show business is like Star Trek's Klingon Empire: you get promoted by killing the person whose job you want.)
The film finally ends (after almost two and a quarter hours!), following the vicious gang-rape of Molly (Victim!). We watch Nomi hitchhike out of Las Vegas, a "mirror" to the film's beginning (wow!). Just as I'm joking "Do you think she'll be picked up by the same guy, the one who stole her suitcase in the beginning?" a truck pulls over to give her a ride, and, sure enough, it's the same guy (this really happened). While this doesn't have the comical effect I think the film makers were going for, nobody's complaining. At least it's finally over!
Nomi is so unlikable and, frankly, untalented, that you never buy that all the other characters keep chasing after her. One guy thinks she's selling out her great dancing talent (!), Molly is afraid she'll "become" corrupt, and everyone else, male and female, wants to get her into bed. Frankly, considering the tons of attractive (not to mention naked) women in this flick, Nomi just really doesn't deserve all the attention she's getting.
The script was by Joe Eszterhas (for which he received three million dollars), Hollywood's most famous misogynist. Some of his other women-friendly scripts include Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct. Eszterhas kept complaining about how moral his story was (the "corruption" angle), and continues to jabber about his "strong" female characters. However, he writes women not only like he never met one, but as if they were a mythological species that he was too lazy to research. Watching one of Eszterhas' woman characters is akin to watching a werewolf expert in a horror movie state that "the only way to kill a werewolf is by driving a wooden stake through its heart." You snort, wondering how anyone could be so ignorant about something so basic, much less commit it to paper (or film).
The key to Eszterhas' women is that they're not: they're men, not bitches so much as assholes. This undoubtedly explains why most of his female characters are lesbians or bisexual (actually, omni-sexual is probably closer to the truth). To add insult to injury, Eszterhas then tries to score PC points by pointing at his "sympathetic" portrayals of lesbians ("Hey, they make me hot, so I must like them"). And it is true that homosexuals had no real reason to complain that Basic Instinct's Catherine Grant character (played by Sharon Stone) was portraying gays and lesbians as murderous scum. In Eszterhas' films, pretty much everybody is murderous scum.
If Eszterhas' women characters remind me of anything, it's a bit from the Seinfeld TV show. Elaine is relating to Jerry what she did with a woman friend that afternoon. In the middle of the itinerary ("we went to the museum, then clothes shopping, then stopped by my apartment..."), Jerry cuts in "... and then you stripped down to your underwear and had a tickle fight?" Elaine stares at Jerry with cool disgust, and asks "You really think that's what women do, don't you?" Jerry's face goes totally deadpan as he nods his head and answers "Yes. Yes, I do." That's Joe Eszterhas in real life. Even in the one somewhat positive relationship in the film, Nomi's and Molly's, they're constantly kissing and hugging and rolling around with one another, giggling.
Anyway, here's what Eszterhas thinks makes a character, particularly a woman, strong (remember, these are their positive traits):
- Never, ever, admit you're wrong, especially when you are and you owe someone an apology. Instead, demand an apology from them.
- Consider yourself above any moral framework other than the one you devise for yourself.
- Remember that you owe neither society or any other human being any courtesy or consideration.
- Use any tool, especially your sexuality, to further your goals.
Let me just conclude by noting for any guys out there that this wouldn't be a very good "date" flick.
-Review by Ken Begg