YOU DON'T NOMI
When released in 1995 Showgirls became one of the most infamous mainstream films to grace theaters. The first major film to be shown under the NC-17 rating (formerly the notorious X rating), Showgirls featured nudity and graphic sex scenes. It also bombed with audiences and critics, both of which savaged the film for bad acting, at times incoherent story and general sleaziness.
However, like all things, Showgirls has undergone a reevaluation. Said reevaluation and appreciation for Showgirls as both a cult film and perhaps a legitimate feature is the subject of the documentary You Don't Nomi. Does it make its case that Showgirls is not the cinematic disaster of reputation but perhaps a genuinely well-crafted film? Not to me, but You Don't Nomi does suggest that perhaps things are a bit more complex than one might think.
Using off-camera interviews with various film scholars, Showgirls fans and stars of the Showgirls musical parody, You Don't Nomi explores three possible interpretations of our notorious film. It could be a Piece of S**t. It could be a Masterpiece. It could be a Masterpiece of S**t. The documentary has its combatants make their own cases as well as explore their individual love for Showgirls. That love ranges from crafting a Midnight Movie presentation to one of You Don't Nomi's best segments.
That revolves around April Kidwell, an actress who stars as Nomi Malone in the Showgirls musical spoof. Again off-camera (all the interviews are as such), Kidwell tells her story. Starting from a Mormon upbringing, she came to New York to pursue a singing and acting career but was viciously drugged and raped. The emotional and physical scars started to heal when she was cast in spoofs of the two best-known characters in Showgirls star Elizabeth Berkley's oeuvre (Saved by the Bell's Jessie and Showgirls' Nomi) metaphorically saving her.
You Don't Nomi also allows for wildly different interpretations. One film critic waxes rhapsodic about the use of mirrors, suggesting there's some kind of artistic meaning behind it. Right after, another seems to mock such ideas, suggesting that such interpretations are downright silly.
Director Jeffrey McHale allows the film to kind of ramble and there doesn't seem to be a firm structure. One moment we can look at the problematic use of black characters in Showgirls, almost serving as "magical Negroes" whose whole purpose is to help our white protagonist. The next we go to the gay subtext and fandom for Showgirls. Another time we explore the filmography of Showgirls' director Paul Verhoeven and how certain elements in Showgirls were almost a running motif for him.
Granted, if that is the case one wonders exactly what Verhoeven finds so fascinating about vomiting, but there it is. Other, darker elements such as the brutalization of women in Verhoeven films are touched on but not deeply explored.
There are some fascinating elements in You Don't Nomi. One interesting take is how other cult films like Valley of the Dolls and Mommie Dearest have certain similar elements with Showgirls. All these films are about strong women fighting to get to the top. They were done with total sincerity in their stabs at being serious drama. They also were all overwrought in terms of the acting. Still, at times it is hard to figure if You Don't Nomi was attempting a Showgirls reevaluation or a Showgirls mockery.
Despite not having actual new interviews with anyone involved in Showgirls outside archival footage, you sense that those involved in this fiasco at least are embracing its sordid reputation. The film mentions how Kyle MacLachlan broached the subject of Showgirls at a tribute versus hiding from it. Unlike Faye Dunaway with Mommie Dearest, Elizabeth Berkley has somewhat embraced Showgirls' infamy, down to introducing the film at a special screening. Whether she actually enjoys being collateral damage to such a notorious flop, one that caused her career great damage, we do not know.
Then again, can one every really Nomi?