(*homocinematically inclined)

Friday, June 5, 2020

Dearest Review: Oh, Goddess!

Believe it or not, Showgirls has been in our lives for 25 years now. Who could have guessed back in 1995, when Paul Verhoeven's infamous NC-17-rated "erotic drama" was first unleashed onto the world, that we would still be talking about it today? Instantly reviled as one of the worst movies ever made by critics and moviegoers alike, it has since been embraced by cult and/or LGBTQ audiences as a camp classic and even reevaluated by a few daring souls who freely, unironically label it a masterpiece.

It is these Showgirl stans, representing both Team Trash and Team Art, that add their voices to the new documentary You Don't Nomi, available on demand and digitally June 9th. And by "add their voices", I do mean just that, as none of the commentators are interviewed on screen; nope, no talking heads here. There's no room for them, as director Jeffrey McHale takes a deep dive into not only the world of Showgirls but the worlds of all of Verhoeven's cinematic oeuvre, from the Oscar nominated Turkish Delight up to the Oscar nominated Elle. He re-frames footage from Showgirls into actual scenes from Robocop, for example, juxtaposing the sex and sin of the former alongside the violence and mayhem of the latter. It's an interesting approach that gets stretched thin at times, but then there's a reveal like Verhoeven's fetishistic attachment to women's fingernails that makes the artistic conceit worthwhile.

April Kidwell as Nomi in Showgirls: The Musical

You Don't Nomi largely eschews the typical format of the usual "making of a classic movie documentary", relegating archival interviews (circa the film's premiere) of the three main players (Verhoeven, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas and Nomi Malone herself, Elizabeth Berkley) to the start of the proceedings, while limiting obvious observations (e.g., "All About Eve remade with strippers") to brief asides. Also of note, particularly to Jessie Spano devotees, is a shockingly robust collection of clips from Berkley's Saved by the Bell glory days.

This leaves the meat of the doc to the unseen "Greek chorus" of aforementioned commentators, who range from the author of a book of poetry inspired by Showgirls to the leading lady of the Off-Broadway musical adaptation to drag icon Peaches Christ (seen at midnight screening pre-shows rising from a papier-mâché Goddess volcano dolled up as either Nomi or Cristal, naturally). It is their startlingly heartfelt and at times surprisingly personal connections to Showgirls that I found fascinating, attesting to the all-mighty power of film – even if that film is as bad as Showgirls.

Dearest Rating: 7/10

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

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