I have Showgirls on my exclusive list of guilty pleasures. It is a truly awful film. Part of the reason it’s so terrible is that the atrocious screenplay famously earned scribe Joe Esterhas a freakin’ $2 million dollar paycheck! It was supposed to be “cutting edge”. It was supposed to be “gritty”. It was supposed to launch former good-girl TV actress Elizabeth Berkley (Saved By the Bell) into superstardom for her portrayal of a smutty Las Vegas dancer who claws her way to the top. Little did the filmmakers know that in no time Showgirls would be universally reviled by critics and audiences alike… that is until cult viewers adopted it as one of the most guffaw-worthy “klassics” of recent years.
Some sample quotes (go here for more… and believe me, there’s a LOT more!):
“I have a problem with pussy.”
“It must be weird not having anyone cum on you.”
“I’ve had dog food. Long time ago. Doggie Chow. I used to love Doggie Chow.”
“She looks better than a ten inch dick and you know it!”
The 2000 Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival screened the film as a Saturday late-show with colorful commentary by local smart-ass journalist David Schmader (The Stranger) who sat at a desk on the stage, and would literally pause the film with a remote control at crucial moments to add commentary. Schmader had recently hosted Showgirls screenings, but in much much smaller theaters (which would always sell out). So it was a tribute to the film’s subtle brilliance to see an 800+ seat theater packed to the rafters to give Showgirls the just attention it so very much deserves.
The story follows a dancer (“not a whore!”) named Nomi (Berkley) as she infiltrates the world of Las Vegas showgirl dancing, and cat-fights her way to the top. Gina Gershon plays Crystal, who has been at the top of the showgirl-pinnacle for years, as the lead in the Stardust production “Goddess”. Of course she is just waiting to be brought crashing down (Schmader points out that Gershon is the only one who knows what movie she is in). Kyle MacLachlan plays the talent director for the show, and shares the infamous pool-sex scene with Nomi that really has to be seen to believed (people in the audience were practically throwing chairs… one audience member yelled out, “Rewind! Show it again!” but Schmader responded, “No! It’s too icky!”).
Unfortunately, towards the end there is an extremely wrong rape scene of the only “pure” character in the film, Nomi’s best friend Molly (Gina Ravera), whom Nomi met and bonded with in a parking-lot cat-fight at the beginning of the film. This gratuitous scene was justifiably fast-forwarded through at the festival screening, while our host made a plug for donations to violence-against-women shelters.
But overall, Showgirls is surprisingly watchable. The plot moves along at a brisk pace, and I have to say, it is never boring. But please keep in mind, this is not a movie to rent and watch alone. That defeats the whole purpose. You will only feel soiled and ashamed at the end, alone in your living room. Showgirls is a crowd-pleaser… it is definitely best enjoyed with a group of people, whether it be with a cozy gathering (the first time I saw it was at a little party of 6 or 7 people), or in a packed theater filled with the sounds of screaming laughter. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!