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By Jess Fenton
16th August 2019

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.

RUN TIME: 1h 32m
CAST: Jeffrey Conway
Joshua Grannell
April Kidwell
Adam Nayman
Haley Mlotek
David Schmader
Elizabeth Berkley
Gina Gershon
Kyle Maclachlan
Paul Verhoeven
DIRECTOR: Jeffrey McHale
PRODUCERS: Jeffrey McHale
Ariana Garfinkel
Suzanne Zionts
Looking for more Melbourne International Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights. 
Pocahontas - 25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
TRENDINGPOCAHONTAS25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
Six Minutes to Midnight - An astonishing real-life tale
TRENDINGWIN SIX MINUTES TO MIDNIGHTAn astonishing real-life tale
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
Love and Monsters - A fun freakshow for the whole family
TRENDINGLOVE AND MONSTERSA fun freakshow for the whole family
Endings, Beginnings - Star-studded sex drama lacks substance
TRENDINGENDINGS, BEGINNINGSStar-studded sex drama lacks substance
Supernova - Colin Firth & Stanley Tucci's comforting yet confronting romance
TRENDINGSUPERNOVAColin Firth & Stanley Tucci's comforting yet confronting romance
Cosmic Sin - A film that delivers on the promise of its title
TRENDINGCOSMIC SINA film that delivers on the promise of its title
The Trouble with Being Born - Controversial, unsettling and intelligent science-fiction
TRENDINGTHE TROUBLE WITH BEING BORNControversial, unsettling and intelligent science-fiction
Hot Mess - Funny, filthy and heartfelt
TRENDINGHOT MESSFunny, filthy and heartfelt
Nymphomaniac - Lars, sex and cinema
The Emperor's New Groove - Getting in the Groove for the past 20 years
TRENDINGTHE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVEGetting in the Groove for the past 20 years
Dark Place - An unsettling Indigenous horror anthology
TRENDINGDARK PLACEAn unsettling Indigenous horror anthology
The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale - An extremely silly zomedy
Palm Beach - Aussie dream cast, unwelcoming dinner party
TRENDINGPALM BEACHAussie dream cast, unwelcoming dinner party
Nomadland - The extraordinary Chloé Zhao delivers another American classic
TRENDINGNOMADLANDThe extraordinary Chloé Zhao delivers another American classic
Burning - One of the best films of the decade
TRENDINGBURNINGOne of the best films of the decade
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
Ali's Wedding - A multicultural Aussie comedy
TRENDINGALI'S WEDDINGA multicultural Aussie comedy
Basic Instinct - 25 years of the erotic thriller
TRENDINGBASIC INSTINCT25 years of the erotic thriller
Another Round - What a beautiful, beautiful ride
TRENDINGANOTHER ROUNDWhat a beautiful, beautiful ride
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