I was around 11 years old when the infamous film ‘Showgirls’ was released. Obviously I was too young to watch it. but I knew it made a splash and people were talking about it. Not until I was in my 30s did I finally find out what all the fuss was about. Like most people, I walked away believing that it was misogynistic, sexist, gratuitous and trashy - but damn was it entertaining if for no other reason than being fun to laugh at. 24 years after the film’s release, there’s now a companion documentary aiming to change the populous mind, or at least provoke the conversation – is ‘Showgirls’ shit or a masterpiece of shit?
‘You Don’t Nomi’ - yes, let’s stop and chuckle at the title for a second - deconstructs both sides of the argument as well as from every angle, including director Paul Verhoven, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, their relationship, the era, the actors, the culture, and of course the fallout and what has happened to not only those who made the film but the film itself in the intervening years.
The real focus of ‘You Don’t Nomi’ is Verhoven. The documentary uses his body of work to not only frame the film but help give it colour and texture, cleverly cutting in clips and shots incorporating ‘Showgirls’ somehow. ‘Nomi’ deep dives into the man, his background and his... while the word is never used, let's say his "auteur" style. And honestly, it’s mind-boggling. As someone who used to say things like, "Of course the man who made 'Basic Instinct' and gave us the three-breasted alien from 'Total Recall' made 'Showgirls'!", I now find myself wanting to watch his entire filmography and be captivated by his anti-American sentiment and (prepare to have your mind blown) queer-friendly storytelling. Whaaa!
It’s nothing short of compelling.
I love that this film plays like a Netflix murder documentary. As the film trots along, more evidence and arguments are wheeled out, causing your opinion to flop minute to minute. By the end, while you’re more informed, you’re still confused as to the final verdict: guilty or not guilty? Shit or masterpiece? Still, it’s nothing short of compelling.
As a cinephile, watching a film being discussed in such a manner is like crack to me, and I inhaled every second. And it’s not just for the academics - there’s drag queens, a satirical musical, more boobs than you could possibly imagine, and you bet your arse they justify that sex scene, and by George, they had me convinced! I now fantasise that this film is only the beginning of a series of passionate and intelligent arguments as to the artistic and cultural merits of films. Like Nomi herself, I dare to dream.