If you were being generous to Showgirls, Paul Verhoeven’s notorious 1995 bomb about a dancer named Nomi Malone who dreams of starring in a topless Vegas revue, you could argue that the film meant to critique Hollywood’s tendencies toward sexual objectification by exaggerating them to ridiculous extremes, like Verhoeven did with cop tropes in his earlier hit Robocop. With You Don’t Nomi, filmmaker Jeffrey McHale gives that argument a fair airing — but also succeeds in exploring Hollywood, and storytelling itself, in a way Showgirls doesn’t approach.
McHale, a television editor by day, uses a cavalcade of video from Showgirls and Verhoeven’s films, including Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers, to try to trulyunderstand the director’s intentions. He shows that for all the critical pans of Showgirls, Verhoeven really did know what he was doing, from a technical standpoint.
McHale tells us on the podcast how his interest in Showgirls was fired in part by a screening of Showgirls in a cemetery that featured a good-natured introduction from Elizabeth Berkley, the Saved by the Bell star who committed completely to the role of Nomi — at Verhoeven’s direction — and whose career suffered as a result.
He also discusses how Showgirls belongs now to its audience — who embrace it for its camp, its wildness, and an LGBTQ message that many have found after the fact.
You Don’t Nomi also rather dazzlingly parallels the lives of Berkley, Nomi, and April Kidwell, an actress who played a variation of the two in a campy Showgirls-inspired musical.
You Don’t Nomi surprises us with the discovery that Showgirls is very worthy of analysis — and for showing how audiences’ reactions to and interpretations of a film are sometimes more inspired than the film itself.
You Don’t Nomi, directed by Jeffrey McHale, is now available on demand, and highly recommended.