The movie begins with almost no lead-up or context. You start to wonder why you’re interested in watching Nomi continue her journey; she spends the first ten minutes of the movie hitchhiking to Vegas and playing slots. Suddenly, she freak outs, runs into the street shouting, and then cries in a stranger’s arms. It’s almost as if they forgot to put in a scene where she snorted coke just before the casino (don’t worry, we get a lot of that later). There’s a hilarious moment between Nomi and the stranger as she looks into the stranger’s eyes for a few seconds and then embraces her—assumingly after she has a strange realization, though we never see or hear about it. This is why Showgirls is worth a watch. Nomi is such an infuriating character making rash decisions for almost no reason whatsoever and being a jerk to everyone she meets. We see none of her rationale or motivation, except for the fact that that she thinks the world should revolve around her. It’s easier to do a marathon in heels than to feel sympathy for this psychotic crazy.
As it turns out, her enormous freak out at the casino was because she realized the guy she hitchhiked with stole her luggage—her only possessions in the world. So Molly, the kind stranger, buys her a hamburger, takes her in, and becomes her best friend. This all happens within three minutes and makes no sense. Again, we’re left hanging in the middle of this movie without anything interesting happening or any reason to keep caring about Nomi. But just as we want to turn the movie off again, we’re introduced to some of the most nonsensical relationships ever committed to celluloid. Cristal Connors (definitely her real name) is a dancer at the high-profile Stardust Casino who calls Nomi’s position at a dingy topless club prostitution. They start a bizarre rivalry/friendship that is equal parts attraction and rage; Cristal orders a lap dance from Nomi for her boyfriend, Zack, and the scene between the three of them is one of the most awkward scenes ever. When Nomi finally gets a part in Cristal’s show, their relationship moves from semi-threesomes into make out sessions, lunches at fancy restaurants, and sabotaging each other’s chances at success. Oh, and Nomi sleeps with Cristal’s boyfriend. There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it and even if you try to write it off as a product of fame getting to their heads, it still doesn’t explain why they flip back and forth and back and forth from hating each other to wanting to hook up. The screenwriter was probably on as much coke as these dancers when he tried to pace the story out.
Speaking of coke, Nomi’s transformation from nobody into star results in a grand total of nothing interesting or substantial for her character, but it does result in a lot more meltdowns, sex with producers for parts, and snorting coke, which would be effective if she wasn’t already acting like an addict for the rest of the film. Oddly enough, Nomi’s episodes are much more justified as the movie goes on: the industry becomes much more sleazy and cutthroat, her producers try to sell her for sex to high rollers, guys try to seduce her. Things get dark, and not in a way that makes you feel sorry for anybody but in a gratuitous, insensitive way that feels like they’re throwing it into the film just because they can. There’s even a rape scene that adds next to nothing to the plot. Director Paul Verhoeven said in an interview that he’s “been accused of being deliberately provocative in insisting upon an NC-17 film, but I think of myself as provocative in a different sense: as a director who explores the difference between reality and the way in which we usually see reality portrayed.” Yes, because in real life, dancers are as mental as Nomi, and dialogue is as forced and stupid as every single scene in this movie. It feels to me that Showgirls was an excuse to put as many boobs into film as possible while still being taken seriously. They failed miserably. It’s hilarious to watch everybody involved with Showgirls take the project too seriously and see how they tried to take maybe 45 minutes of real, solid plot and turn it into a two-hour long soft-core porno.
This article is part of NUFEC's Bad Movies series. Find Showgirls on Amazon here.