Showgirls has a very notorious reputation for being one of worst movies ever made, and for that reason it has intrigued me for the longest time. To me, Verhoeven making a bad movie just sounds completely incomprehensible. Having now watched it, it’s pretty clear that most people just don’t get the movie at all. It is simply an amazing film. I absolutely love how outrageous and over the top it is. The movie has a very on the nose satirical tone to it and it honestly is one of the most brutally honest movies I’ve ever seen made of the entertainment business. The way it handles the subject matter, everything from the way the business uses women up and dumps them once they’ve bled dry to the sleazy backstabbing culture and destructive egos, it does it all perfectly, with such an outrageous style that is damn hilarious. Truly, this movie can’t be anything but pure concentrated genious. This is exactly what Verhoeven did with the over the top violence and the decadent consumer lifestyle in Robocop, how can people not get it? You can’t take anything the movie does at face value. You just can’t. Verhoeven was intentionally making compleyely outlandish and bizarre choices while making the movie with the aim to provoke you. How else do you explain that rape scene or even better, the sex scene in the pool that almost defies laws of nature and is so animalistic you could swear they were actually having a with the water caught in between?
One of the most brilliant things about the movie is how it in a way foreshadows most of the major plot elements and themes in condensed form in the very first five minutes of the movie: despite her edgy side Nomi is completely naïve at heart and quickly gets completely mesmerized and taken away by Vegas, she wins big only to lose it all because the bank always wins in the end, she’s automatically objectified and propositioned for sex, she’s too self-absorbed and arrogant for own good that leads into her being easily taken advantage by people she perceives as friendly, all underlying what Vegas at its core does: it’s pretty on the outside, rotten on the inside, and it wants nothing but to (ab)use you while pretending to be your friend.
Verhoeven is always very good at casting his movies and this film honestly couldn’t have worked with any other actors. Elizabeth Berkley does as a very good job as Nomi, you love to hate her but there are still touches of vulnerability there that makes her sympathetic which is vital for her character to work. Still, to me the highlight is actually Gina Gershon, whose performance is both breathtaking and incredibly vibrant. There is some cheese there, but played straight on purpose and somehow it just works. She knows exactly how to play her role as a woman who toes the line between being a malicious queen bee arc nemesis and surprisingly honest and selfaware mentor character to Nomi. There a lot of depth there that you can’t plainly see, it’s very subtle and complex. How could she get a razzie nomnation for this? She was exquisite. And her outfits, my God, her outfits were incredble. At the same flamboyant, yet to a degree classy, entirely over the top but somehow completely appropriate and natural. Some of them were so damn 90s that I’d say they transcend time itself. And let’s not forget Kyle MacLachlan who is equally superb as the two preceeding lovely leading ladies, he’s so sublime and dirty, you can’t decide whether to love or despise him.
I could almost argue this is a perfect movie, but thst would be hyperbole. But it was clearly way ahead of its time. It was as if Verhoeven was trying to push the envelope further than what society and Hollywood was capable of handling, and that is why it’s still so reviled. It had the audacity to not stick to the norms, and instead it reached out to the sun like Icarus. It would not tolerate any of the American puritan shenanigans and for that blasphemy it got burned.