“Shit Happens? That’s It? That’s What I Get? Fucking Wisdom?”

So, I’m a quitter. If I decide I don’t want to do something anymore, or it just isn’t worth my time, I’m done. I’m not terribly ashamed of this almost-certain character flaw, but it does sometimes come with devastating consequences, like when I decide to give up on my Best Picture Challenge and have to watch and review a terrible movie of your choosing as a result of my failure. And God help me, I finally watched it.

nomi2

Let’s celebrate the Eve of All Hallow’s Eve by talking about Randy Meeks’s favorite scary movie, Showgirls.

DISCLAIMER:

There will be SPOILERS everywhere because seriously. And while there aren’t any NSFW pictures in this review, considering the film in question, it might not be a bad idea to skip this post if you are a) a small, impressionable child, b) working at a place where your boss likes to read over your shoulder, or c) related to the author of said review and don’t necessarily want to see her talk in detail about creepy lap dances or naked aquatic seizure sex.

The choice is yours, my friends. Choose but choose wisely.

SUMMARY:

Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) goes to Vegas to become a dancer. Things go badly almost immediately, but she eventually gets a job as a showgirl, partially because she makes friends with Molly (Gina Ravera), a character who is utterly too good for everyone in this movie, and partially because head showgirl Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon) has a kinda-creepy fixation on Nomi. From there: betrayal, seduction, sabotage, lap dances, melodrama, and a mind-boggling amount of tits.

NOTES:

1. Showgirls isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. I probably wouldn’t even put it in the Top 10 (Bottom 10?), and overall found it easier to watch than my last Punishment Movie, Battlefield Earth. Of course, I had more vodka this time around.

drink1

Also included in the drink: midori, pineapple juice, peach schnapps, Sprite, triple sec, and, of course, the actual title of the movie, weirdly reflected from the television screen.

Still, it’s pretty awful, especially if you, like me, generally prefer stories that center around semi-decent people instead of gross, whiny, sexist, entitled assclowns. The characters in this movie? Yeah, they almost all fall into the latter group. Intentionally, I should add, but still. There is one decent character in this entire movie, and she’s violently beaten and raped by her very favorite musician and his two hulking bodyguards.

2. But that’s for later. Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we, with our hitchhiking protagonist, Nomi.

foreshadow knife

She’s awful from the very start.

So, Nomi catches a ride to Vegas with Super Skeezy Driver. SSD establishes his creep factor right away by suggesting that she sit a little closer to him. Nomi immediately responds by pulling her Foreshadow Switchblade and saying, “Chill, okay?” It’s a laughably atrocious line delivery — literally, I burst out laughing — and while I feel bad that Showgirls effectively killed Elizabeth Berkley’s career, I also can’t help but feel that she earned the hell out of her Razzie in this movie.

Nomi then changes the radio station with her knife — because it’s badass? — and sasses that she doesn’t like Garth Brooks, which is all well and good; I’m no huge fan of Garth Brooks, either, but who does that when your hitchhiking in someone else’s car? Turning down gross come-ons, absolutely, but rudely changing the music like this is your truck? Oh, and then refusing to give your name, even a fake name, in favor of staying silent and staring imperiously out the windshield? This is a prime example of Bitchy, Not Badass.

Of course, then Super Skeezy Driver proves that he’s also a dangerous psychopath when, offended by Nomi’s behavior, he’s like, “I’ll just pull over then” and nearly kills them both (not to mention everyone else on the road) by veering wildly and abruptly cutting off the semi behind them. Somehow, this convinces Nomi to finally put away her switchblade and give her name instead of doing what any sane person would do and jump the fuck out of the car.

I hate them both. I want them to die.

Sadly, no one dies in this movie. I was pretty disappointed.

3. Nomi and Super Skeezy Driver make it to Vegas. Soon after, SSD takes off with Nomi’s suitcase, leaving her with nothing but that handy Foreshadow Switchblade. Understandably, Nomi reacts badly to this. Which is to say, she leans into the nearest car and starts attacking it as she freaks out.

This is when Molly, owner of said car, comes by and — also understandably — is not pleased. She pulls Nomi away from the car and gets elbowed in the stomach for it. She then pulls Nomi away again and nearly gets puked on. (Which seemed kind of random? Is Nomi supposed to be drunk? Did she get an elbow in the stomach too?) And when Nomi accidentally staggers into traffic, it’s Molly (unfortunately) who saves her ass from getting run over. This immediately leads to a weirdly abrupt moment of burgeoning lesbian intimacy, where the two soulfully gaze into each others eyes — which, hey, I’d be all about the ship except a) Jesus Christ, Nomi just vomited, and b) a random, crazy woman attacking your car and then you and then nearly getting herself killed in the middle of the Strip doesn’t exactly strike me as a terribly romantic moment.

almost kiss2

But what do I know? Clearly I’ve proven, time and again on this blog, that I’m a terrible romantic.

Molly follows up all the life-saving and almost-kissing by treating Nomi to dinner. Then she invites Nomi to crash at her place because Nomi has nowhere else to go, and because Molly is a godamned saint who is too good for this world.

4. Weirdly, though, Molly and Nomi are actually kind of a cute couple for exactly one scene.

cute

Okay, that’s not true. They’re also pretty cute shopping together. But watching this scene in particular, I couldn’t help but feel like if this movie had been an actual love story between these two instead of an erotic thriller/lazy treatise on ambition and exploitation/shameless tit show/rape-and-revenge flick, I could have liked it. Obviously, that’s not what this movie ever wanted to be, I know. But even though I hated Nomi right from the start, I watched this scene and thought, “Aw, they’re kind of adorable together. I could totally watch the costume designer and the stripper be all cute and take on Vegas.”

5. Instead, we ignore Molly for awhile to focus on Nomi’s icky not-really-romance with James (Glenn Plummer).

l interest 3

This is James, although I prefer to think of him as Dipshit, or That One Guy on the Freeway From Speed.

They are the opposite of a power couple. Is there a term for that? They are both awful, awful people and their relationship makes no sense.

Sigh. We might as well go through it, step by step.

The Meet/Cute

Nomi and Molly go to a club. Bouncer James sees Nomi and decides to dance with her, even though he’s not supposed to, being on the job and all. No one cares about that sort of thing in this movie, though, so they go ahead and dance, or really, flail like spastic chickens.  (I mean, I’m not a great judge of this sort of thing. I’m a terrible dancer. I’m aware of this. But I’m pretty sure they’re both supposed to be good here, and uh, I outright giggled watching them.)

Bouncer James tells Nomi that she’s not so much dancing as teasing his dick (his words), but that he can teach her because he sees potential — which sounds exactly like the kind of insult/compliment a lot of asshats use to try and pick up women. Kneeing him in the balls, though, does seem like a bit of an overreaction, especially because by doing so, Nomi ends up inadvertently starting a bar fight. Not that Nomi feels bad about this by any means; on the contrary, she walks away with a giant smirk on her face, supremely impressed with herself for being a huge asshole. Luckily, some random dude notices that she started the fight, and she’s thrown in jail.

The Bail Out

What, you don’t normally bail out your prospective girlfriends the morning after they try to crush your testicles? Well, that’s what Ex-Bouncer James does for no apparent reason. (Yeah, he lost that job, to no one’s great surprise.) And not that paying her way out of jail entitles him to a date in any way, but there’s also zero reason to act like such a huge jerk to him, either. Still, this is Nomi, so yeah, she’s pretty much awful. For some reason, though, they both act like this is adorable.

The Stalking

Ex-Bouncer James ups his Creep Factor by the power of 80 MILLION when he a) spies on Nomi giving Zack (Kyle MacLachlan) a lap dance, and b) tracks Nomi down somehow and shows up at her door, like, Jesus Christ, what is wrong with you, dude?

l interest 2

Seriously, for being a creepy stalker, this guy throws a ridiculous amount of weird judgment at her, always with the promise that he can teach her to stop dancing like a hooker. (This is a repeated thing with Nomi, how she’s always thrusting everywhere, how she’s less dancing than air-fucking — but I’ve gotta be honest, when she’s dancing on stage and not just, say, flat-out grinding against someone’s dick? I never really saw any difference between her and any of the other burlesque dancers. But, admittedly, this is far, far from my area of expertise.)

Anyway, Creepy Stalker James accuses Nomi of metaphorically fucking both Zack and his girlfriend, Cristal Connors. To which Nomi asks, outraged, “Are you following me around?” like that wasn’t patently obvious from him showing up at her trailer.

He then lectures some more: “You fuck ’em without fucking them, that’s what you do! Well, it ain’t right! You’ve got too much talent for it to be right!” Man. That’s pretty much exactly what my disappointed guidance counselor said to me! (I kid. The only thing I remember my guidance counselor ever saying to me is asking if people routinely underestimated my intelligence because of my hair, which is apparently what I get for actually attempting to participate in Spirit Week for once on Crazy Hair Day.)

The Extremely Brief Dance Lesson

Not surprisingly, the stalking scene above doesn’t exactly end with a big romantic kiss. But they both seem to be over that by the next time they run into each other, after Nomi walks out of a horrifying audition. (One of the main problems with Nomi is that her default reaction is to throw something in someone’s face and storm out, no matter what the issue is. Storming out after this audition? Absolutely understandable. It’s so deeply gross. But Nomi must exit in the exact same melodramatic fashion, what? Six times in this movie? I’m honestly not sure. You lose count after a while, but I am sure I’m using it as a drinking game rule if I ever watch Showgirls again.)

Anyway, Pro Stalker and Guidance Counselor-In-Training James is, not surprisingly, still disappointed in Nomi’s life choices, since being a burlesque dancer is just a fancy stripper and, after all, what about the number he wrote for her? (This has literally come up once.) He then tells off his boss for insisting that he work instead of chatting up random women, and his unprofessionalism apparently excites Nomi, so they drive off together to his place, where they have a dance scene that starts out sorta cute before quickly going to the naughty place.

PS/GC-I-T James figures he’s getting some, but Nomi tells him that they can’t have sex because she’s on her period. He doesn’t believe her. She says, “Check,” and I cringe because fingering someone to check for menstrual blood is just . . . ack, like, weird on so many levels . . . although, I do kind of love his reaction: “It’s all right. I’ve got towels.”

Nomi responds, “You can fuck me when you love me,” and saunters out. Honestly, at this point, I don’t even know what to do with that.

The Break-Up

Even though they’re not actually dating.

So, Nomi gets the showgirl job after all and goes running to tell Dipshit James. (It’s shorter. I caved.) Only Dipshit James is already hooking up with Penny, a new stripper at Nomi’s old job. It also turns out that Dipshit James gave Penny the same bullshit ‘I can teach you’ speech he gave to Nomi, which totally makes him a creep (not like we needed more evidence of this.) I can see why Nomi wouldn’t want shit to do with him anymore . . . but the way the scene actually goes down, Nomi acts like they were really dating, like there’s anything in all that bullshit I just summarized that might eventually spell L-U-V for these sweet kids.

Nomi storms off. Naturally. And that’s mostly the last we see of James. Once, he tries and fails to win her back with some flowers. And then, sometime later, we find out that James’s dance/choreographer career is a bust and that he’s getting married to Penny because she’s pregnant. I think maybe I’m supposed to care that his dream has died and he’s going to go work in his mom’s grocery store so his baby can have diapers? Yeah, I don’t care. He’s an assclown. Everyone’s an assclown in Vegas. There’s your godamn moral.

6. Case in point:

km1

Here is Zack, our supremo slimy assclown with terrible hair, like, what is this, a pre-emo bang? (I know, I know, it’s the mid-90’s Joey Tribianni, but Kyle MacLachlan really doesn’t rock it.) Nomi trusts Zack because he’s pretty much the only one in the business (other than Molly) who’s even remotely kind to her, but it’s fairly obvious from the start that he’s as awful as everyone else, although he only shows his true, sinister dickbag colors to Nomi at the end of the film.

I don’t actually have so much to say about Dickbag Zack — he’s not really as big of a player in this as I assumed, like, he and Dipshit James probably have roughly equal screen time — but we should probably talk a little about the scene I’m sure you’ve all been waiting to hear about it.

epileptic sex scene

Prior to watching Showgirls, I was warned of the “dolphin sex scene” by two or three different people. (And by warned, I mean that those people, once considered friends, maliciously laughed at my misfortune and impending retinal scarring.) Because of this, I became mildly apprehensive that this sex scene might, in fact, have actual fucking dolphins somewhere in there, bringing Showgirls to a whole other level of uncomfortable weird.

Thankfully, it turned out that Nomi just suffered a grand mal seizure while riding Zack’s dick in the pool. Which, admittedly, is also weird — sex has never before so closely resembled enthusiastic epilepsy — but at least we didn’t bring actual dolphins into it.

Also, tangentially related: at one point, Nomi sexily tells Zack, “I liked it when you came. I liked your eyes.” Lines like this will almost always inevitably confuse me because I burst out laughing when she said it — but that’s pretty much par for the course for me when it comes to dirty talk: I think pretty much all of it is impossible to take seriously. So for all I know, that particular line was actually super hot instead of hysterical.

It does seem a bit unlikely, though, when taking the rest of the film into consideration.

7. It occurs me that I haven’t really talked about Cristal Connors yet.

gershon1

I know Gina Gershon mostly from one of my favorite episodes of Psych, “American Duos,” where she plays Emilina Saffron, the Paula Abdul parody character. It’s kind of fun to see her here. Actually, other than her Texan accent which I never bought for a moment, I don’t think, acting-wise, she’s as bad as some of her fellow cast. Then again, 98% of her job in this movie is just to leer at Nomi.

I’m honestly not even sure what to say about Cristal. She’s the star dancer, the Queen B, and she and Nomi spend most of the movie locked in one long power struggle, occasionally punctuated by manipulative lunch dates, creepy lap dances, and other Wicked Lesbian Action. Well, Wicked Bisexual Action, really, but I definitely kept thinking of this scene while watching Showgirls. (The bisexuality in Showgirls is . . . interesting. On one hand, there’s really no homophobia anywhere in this movie, which is kind of cool, actually. On the other hand, it all feels so artificial — like, let’s cash in on our two female leads macking on each other cause it’s so hot! — that I have a hard time feeling all, “Woo hoo, representation!”)

Nomi and Cristal are painted as hero and villain, sort of, but of course they’re actually one in the same, two sides of the same coin, all that jazz. Which Nomi directly proves when she shoves Cristal down a staircase and takes her spot as the Queen B.

queen b nomi

I missed the foreshadow line earlier setting this up (presumably, I was too busy making myself another drink or snickering at something to hear it), so I was just thinking to myself, “You know, it’s surprising that none of these girls ever fall down that death trap of a staircase” when BOOM, Cristal goes down.

Not that she dies. She’s just out of the show and not all that unhappy about it, since she’s going to get a ton of money and, as she reveals to Nomi, did the same thing years ago to the last Queen B.

8. Molly, however, isn’t quite as forgiving as Cristal.

molly2

Molly is pretty angry about what Nomi’s done, especially after Nomi lies about it. (In a surprisingly solid bit of structure, one of the other dancers, Julie, backs up Nomi’s claim that Cristal “fell” after Nomi kept quiet about Julie’s own sabotage attack earlier in the film. Unfortunately for Nomi, Molly was looking at Julie when Cristal fell and knows that she couldn’t have seen shit.) For once, someone walks out on Nomi instead of the other way around, and it’s a refreshing change of pace.

9. Disappointingly, it only lasts for about a minute before Molly forgives Nomi and goes to a big party with her. This, of course, is when we arrive at The Scene.

awful scene

Seriously. Fuck this scene.

For starters, it’s kind of weirdly abrupt. On one hand, the movie has at least bothered to mention Andrew a couple of times prior to his arrival (you’ll notice he’s in the poster behind Molly two pictures above) and Showgirls quickly tells us he’s an asshole when he talks to Nomi. And yet the actual scene itself feels sudden and heavily manufactured, which makes the brutal rape of the only likable character in this whole movie feel even cheaper, which shouldn’t even be possible. The entire thing is only done for Nomi’s . . . are we calling this character growth? Whatever, Molly’s rape is all about Nomi. The whole thing is just gross.

10. This is when Zack reveals both a) his true slimy colors, and b) Nomi’s holy shit, soap opera tragic backstory. We find out, among other things, that Nomi has worked as a prostitute to survive, which probably shouldn’t be too surprising, considering her constant refrain in this movie is that she isn’t a whore. And considering that she was clearly traumatized by the experience, I’m trying to find more sympathy for her, but she’s just . . . so . . . AWFUL. Every time she righteously denies she’s not a whore, I’m like, “Fine, okay, I believe you. But honey, there are so many worse things than being a whore, and sweetheart, you are all of them.”

11. Anyway, Zack gets all creepy and throat-grabby and threatening. Nomi, however, decides that getting revenge on Andrew is more important than her career as a showgirl, which, admittedly, is nice to see, although I’m still totally grossed out that Molly had to get raped for it to happen.

Regardless. Queen B Nomi transforms into Topless Vigilante Nomi.

vigilante nomi

To my surprise, there is actually some setup for Showgirls to make the sudden switch from high melodrama into a rape-and-revenge flick, particularly the Foreshadow Switchblade. But I’m pretty disappointed that they didn’t fully embrace the sub-genre and just kill the hell out of this guy. I guess it’s cool and all that Nomi beats him up (toplessly, of course, because I’m frankly surprised people don’t just walk down the Strip topless in this movie), but come on, you guys. If I have to deal with the rape, I sure as hell deserve a fully committed and bloody revenge. Nomi could have stabbed Andrew in both eyes with those perfectly manicured nails. She could have cut up or cut off all sorts of things with that switchblade.

Instead, Nomi beats him up, threatens him, and takes off for LA with the same loser from the beginning of the movie who stole her suitcase, setting up for a sequel that, obviously, didn’t happen . . . except how it sort of did, but without Elizabeth Berkley. The sequel is actually some direct-to-video thing about Penny, the stripper that absolutely nobody cared about.

I’ve considered it, and I’ve decided that I can live the rest of my life without witnessing the wonder that is Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven for myself.

12. I forgot to mention before that, according to IMDb trivia, Charlize Theron auditioned for the role of Nomi Malone and Angelina Jolie auditioned for the role of Cristal Connors. Think about that for a minute. Seriously, just imagine it.

13. Finally, hands down the weirdest moment for me in this movie is when Al Torres (Robert Davi) briefly comes back into the story like he’s some sort of  benevolent mentor figure instead of Nomi’s old boss that coerced blow jobs from his employees.

davi2

His actual line here?

“Saw the show. You were good,  real good. You take care, kid . . . it must be weird, not having anybody cum on you.”

I laughed so hard. Holy GOD. What the shit is this?

CONCLUSIONS:

Christ, I don’t know. There are moments in this movie where I feel like there’s a halfway decent story somewhere in there, obviously smothered by about 85,000 A and B-cup tits. And I surprisingly wasn’t bored, which isn’t nothing, but the characters are all awful, the dialogue is atrocious, the rape is gross, the acting is terrible, the sex scenes are unintentionally hilarious, and I’m not sure if you can claim your movie is all about exposing industry exploitation if your movie is going to be this blatantly exploitive itself.

Also, not for nothing — everyone loves to complain that studio interference ruins a movie, and sometimes people are absolutely right, but in this particular instance, maybe some studio interference would have been a good call? Because director Paul Verhoeven had complete creative freedom on this one, which means epileptic dolphin sex? Entirely on that guy.

MVP:

Gina Ravera

LVP:

Elizabeth Berkley. I know I’m hurting you, Saved by the Bell fans, but she’s just bad.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

D

MORAL:

Don’t go to Vegas. Everyone’s an assclown there, apparently, and on the off chance that they’re not, well, they’ll probably get violently punished for it.

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2 Responses to “Shit Happens? That’s It? That’s What I Get? Fucking Wisdom?”

  1. Teacups says:

    “Nomi and Super Skeezy Driver make it to Vegas. Soon after, SSD takes off with Nomi’s suitcase”
    I found it very weird that someone who apparently had a lot of experience on the streets would happily leave her suitcase in a super skeezy stranger’s car like that.

    “Storming out after this audition? Absolutely understandable. It’s so deeply gross.”
    Was this the ice audition? I don’t want to underplay the grossness of it – but like, I didn’t quite get why rubbing ice on her nipples would make Nomi storm out, when her current job involved LICKING A STRIP CLUB POLE. (Then again, I’m assuming that was a required part of her routine. Perhaps she came up with that move all on her own.)

    The edited-for-TV version of this is pretty hilarious – the dubbing is awful, and everyone’s wearing crappy CGI bras that are entirely one shade, regardless of the scene’s lighting. Honestly, I don’t know why a network would buy this movie in the first place. It was a poorly received box-office bomb that obviously would need a lot of editing before it could be aired.

    I mostly just know Gina Gershon from this and Bound, which is an awesome little movie. But ironically enough, that movie, not Showgirls (which I knew all about going into) was the one I started out believing was some kind of quasi-porn flick the first time I saw it – although I think that says more about the context I saw it in than Bound itself.

    Er, not that the context was porn – my friend was having these lesbian film nights, which I figured was a good way to meet girls without my incessant movie chatter putting them off. But all the movies she’d shown were terrible, and when we got to this one and the only storyline was the neighbour seducing the protagonist into some fingering… I thought she’d run through her DVD collection of painful rom-coms and incredibly boring dramas, and had to resort to sexploitation.

    Then somebody’s finger got cut off by the mob, the main characters started plotting a heist on the mob, and I realised this wasn’t the kind of thing my friend would have on DVD – she couldn’t stand violence. It turned out this had been her housemate’s suggestion. It’s still easily my favourite thing from the Wachowskis; although before Sense8, it was the only thing I’d even liked. I haven’t seen Cloud Atlas or Jupiter Ascending though.

    • That was the audition. I think it’s not specifically the ice on her nipples itself, but the whole scene, how the guy acts with her, how degrading it all is. There’s no reason it has to be like that. Licking the stripper pole is gross on a hygienic basis, but it’s also something she’s doing (and honestly, I would have just assumed it was her choice), not something that feels like it’s being done to her. (I know she’s the one would be rubbing the ice on her nipples, but it still feels different to me.) I suppose there’s also the idea that Nomi clearly seems to take the burlesque dancing as a step up in the world, so I feel like she probably wasn’t expecting to be treated the way that, say, Robert Davi treats her at the Cheetah.

      Oh my God, those CGI bras are HILARIOUS. I think those made my morning.

      Huh, I’ve never even heard of Bound. I’ll have to look it up.

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