September 22, 1995 in Seven

‘Showgirls’ Makes No Apologies

Michael H. Price Fort Worth Star-Telegram
 

‘Showgirls” is a better film than it has any business being, although it’s the quantity of bared flesh and not the quality of its story that will make or break Paul Verhoeven’s controversial picture at the box office.

The rare NC-17 rating should serve as a warning to anyone who finds plentiful nudity offensive. On the other hand, fans of director Verhoeven’s ultraviolent fantasy pictures such as “RoboCop” (1987) and “Total Recall” (1990) may be disappointed to find “Showgirls” lacking in body count.

Where the big screen’s last well-publicized “nudie,” an unrated artsy thing called “Sirens” (1994), feigned social relevance and satiric pretensions as if to justify its pageant of undraped young women, “Showgirls” goes about its errands without apology. Verhoeven and scenarist Joe Eszterhas lead the audience into a show-business underworld where clothing is often optional and a high-pitched sexuality is just another implement of commerce. The tale is more depressing than arousing.

“Showgirls” may, in fact, be the first big-studio backstage melodrama that refuses to glamorize the show world. The major casino impresarios sneer at their strip-joint neighbors, who in turn snarl back resentfully - but at base, they’re all the same.

Nomi (played with a feral grace by Elizabeth Berkley) is a switchblade-packing drifter who wants to dance in Vegas. She has raw talent, a foul temper and some ugly secrets. An encounter with a major stage-revue star named Cristal (Gina Gershon) seems to convince Nomi she’ll never rise above the lap-dance racket.

Berkley and Gershon are quite effective within the melodramatic limits of feud/ friendship. Their greater contribution is the hostile wariness they bring to their characters. The best strippers - big-time or small-change - combine an extravagant loveliness with a hardened air that comes naturally, and Berkley and Gershon capture this quality without apparent effort.

That’s the scariest thing about “Showgirls,” in fact - that a suave, predatory casino boss (played by “Twin Peaks”’ Kyle MacLachlan) or a rough-and-tumble strip-joint honcho (Robert Davi) can look almost benign by comparison with the treacherous title characters. There are no particularly sympathetic folks here, and even a violent payoff scene - a rather unsurprising comeuppance for one vicious big shot - is more a coldblooded vigilante act than a righteous show of justice.

Eszterhas’ dialogue captures the gutter-smart native intelligence of the trade. The script makes a point of giving the MacLachlan character an unusually cultured personal history: good manners, at odds with jungle ethics. North Texas comedian Greg Travis seems suitably oily as MacLachlan’s treacherous lieutenant.

Finally, “Showgirls” shows the gumption to suggest that some daring soul might actually infiltrate the upper ranks of Vegas’ show world and shatter a sleazy tradition or two. Its final scene requires an impossible coincidence but works well enough as an exit gag.

MEMO: 2 sidebars appeared with the story: “Showgirls” Location: East Sprague, Lyons and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Paul Verhoeven, starring Kyle MacLachlan, Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon Running time: 2:11 Rating: NC-17

Other view Jay Boyar/Orlando Sentinel: You’d think it would be hard to make a movie with a whole bunch of people (young women, mostly) traipsing around in the buff and have it be totally boring. But “Showgirls,” so to speak, pulls it off. … It certainly doesn’t help matters much that Elizabeth Berkley, who plays the lead, possesses no detectable acting talent. … I suspect that a lot of people who would not be caught dead at a porno theater are hoping that I’ll give this film a good review (or at least a mediocre one). That would provide an excuse to get a few cheap thrills. But the thrills - cheap or otherwise - just aren’t there, not for me anyway. If you need an excuse to see this film, you’ll just have to look someplace else.

2 sidebars appeared with the story: “Showgirls” Location: East Sprague, Lyons and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Paul Verhoeven, starring Kyle MacLachlan, Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon Running time: 2:11 Rating: NC-17

Other view Jay Boyar/Orlando Sentinel: You’d think it would be hard to make a movie with a whole bunch of people (young women, mostly) traipsing around in the buff and have it be totally boring. But “Showgirls,” so to speak, pulls it off. … It certainly doesn’t help matters much that Elizabeth Berkley, who plays the lead, possesses no detectable acting talent. … I suspect that a lot of people who would not be caught dead at a porno theater are hoping that I’ll give this film a good review (or at least a mediocre one). That would provide an excuse to get a few cheap thrills. But the thrills - cheap or otherwise - just aren’t there, not for me anyway. If you need an excuse to see this film, you’ll just have to look someplace else.


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