Horrible Crippling Depression Jr. (dominoparker) wrote in artofvision,
Horrible Crippling Depression Jr.

"Okay, show me your tits"

Showgirls (Paul Verhoven, 1995)

Off the top let me confess that Showgirls is stored on my computer in the porn file. It's easy to get lost in all of the naked bodies on display in the film, especially for me because it adheres to softcore nudity, which I find more pleasing than anything too

Where do I begin with the film itself? There is so much more at work here. I had to keep notes. There are very obvious earmarks lent to the film by Joe Eszterhas in the script. Characters spit out lines like "You want, you pay for it" or "Don't get sucked into it" speaking at once to the character and also to the audience. Making the themes very clear. There is an upper class machine at work. It's America. If you have the money, you can seemingly get whatever you want. It's telling that whenever characters in this movie have something happen to them, they are always buying things in response.

"I got a job" "let's go buy a dress then eat fajitas"
or "I'm sad someone stole my stuff" "I'll buy you some french fries to cheer you up"
or "I'm contemplating something. I think I'll go buy me a hamburger".
(all not actual quotes, just examples).

The base consumer instincts of this film actually ring pretty true for my taste. It's surprising watching this with a critical eye, just how spot on it is so much of the time themeatically, structurally, and even emotionally. It's also great to see that Verhoven has clearly perverted (no pun intended) what could have been more conventional story or character
beats. I feel like in certain places the writing wants to take the film in a different direction, but Verhoven is savvy enough to steer it back down his path. I'm also impressed how in such a glittery mess of a world the relationships between the main female characters end up being so tender. All of the love in this movie is shared solely by the females, by the way. Every guy (and I do mean every) is a complete douchebag. Even James, the modern dancer with a heart of gold, is a complete tool. He in particular purports to be interested in some sort of higher artistic expression, but in the end, all he really wants is to fuck.

The third act provides one of the more horrific climaxes that I have seen. Having Molly raped by her favorite singer, whom earlier in the film she is fantasizing about is goddamn cold hearted. The actual mechanics of the rape scene make it even worse. The character of Andrew is so beyond the pale horrible that he might as well be wearing a Michael Myers mask instead of looking like a shirtless Fabio type. But then again, the smooth veneer of wealth is a mask wielded by all of the characters in power (almost all of them men). We do see the one woman with any sort of influence purposely destroyed by Nomi herself. Then Nomi is finally sucked into the world. She of course realizes later that Cristal was just like her once and that the power that she held was as tenuous as her own. It's really satisfying in more ways than one that their interaction ends in a moment where they finally kiss when they no longer have anything to lose or gain from one another. It's real love at that point (or at least real lust).

The dancing scenes themselves give Verhoven a good outlet to work out character emotions in the same way a musical does with songs. Only this time there are more bare boobs and butts (which is generally preferable IMO). It's both a shame and probably a good thing that the mostly nude dance scenes thing didn't catch on in big budget films.

The most striking thing about Nomi in this film is that she is always hitting or throwing or screaming something. Even the way she fucks is violent. I doubt you could find a more American protagonist in a more American movie.

I'm so glad that Verhoven knows exactly how to be ridiculous. It seems like sometimes in this script Eszterhas is trying to be sexy or cool, but the way Verhoven has instructed the actors it comes out hilarious, and it is my firm belief that is intentional, because that's how Verhoven rolls. "I'm erect, why aren't you erect?" and the "I liked you better topless" scenes come to mind. There is also one of the most grossly hilarious moments that I've ever seen in an almost sex scene, when Nomi tells James she's on her period and he doesn't believe her. I have never seen anything like that and I kind of hope I never see anything like it again, but I appreciate that it's there. I'm not sure if that was part of the script, but it's pretty hilarious.

And finally, yes this movie has some of the best gratuitous nudity I've seen in a big budget Hollywood film. Gratuitous nudity is another thing at which Verhoven excels. I appreciate it when it isn't done in any type of gaze either, it's just a matter of fact thing that happens to be there in the scene. It also plays a hilarious role in the fight scene between Julie and Annie when Julie has her children with her in a room full of mostly naked people and the word "fuck" is what's bothering them.

I will say that if there is a scene to cut it's the scene where Cristal and Nomi are talking about Nomi's "tits". It felt very awkward for some reason and it didn't crackle like the rest of the film.

This was definitely a film worth reconsidering. It has a shocking amount to offer from a critical standpoint. This actually has me interested in some critical revision of some softcore titles. Anyone have any recommendations?
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