The Reel Review


This documentary is an analytical tribute to Showgirls, Paul Verhoeven’s visually stunning but epically awful 1995 satire about contemporary American culture that critics initially panned as one of the worst, most exploitive movies ever made, but over the years has become celebrated as a cult classic.

Elizabeth Berkley, licking the pole as Nomi in Showgirls.

Director Jeffrey McHale’s documentary is not so much about the making of Showgirls as it is an analysis of why people initially hated Showgirls, then in time grew to love its over-the-top luridness, over-acting and catfights. McHale’s use of clips from other Verhoeven films helps  illustrate that Showgirls was actually a well-intended, biting satire about American amorality that would have been groundbreaking had it not been saddled with such a garbage script.

Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon in Showgirls. Spago, anyone?

The documentary’s biggest drawback is that other than the commentary from critics, the interviews with the filmmakers and co-star Kyle MacLachlan are archival. Where are recent interviews? Where is Berkley? Where is Gina Gershon? Instead we get cinematic filler – cute stage plays inspired by Showgirls and comparisons to other cult classics, like Valley of the Dolls and Mommie Dearest. Hardcore fans still will enjoy fun details about the inspiration behind the sets for the film’s big Vegas show, the clever use of camera angles and mirrors, the film’s obsession with fingernails and a charming finale featuring 2015 footage of the much-maligned Berkley. If only there was more.


• During casting, others considered for the part of Nomi were Pamela Anderson, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Vanessa Marcil, Charlize Theron, Denise Richards (who was cast in Verhoeven’s next film, 1997’s Starship Troopers) and Jenny McCarthy.

• It was a 20-year-old Berkley, who was paid only $100,000 for the career-ruining role, who suggested that Nomi mispronounce Versace as “Versayce.” Verhoeven acknowledges that Showgirls ruined Berkley’s career, and that her manic overacting was his idea, to drive home Nomi’s mistrust of people after years of abuse.

Showgirls remains the top grossing NC-17 film of all time – earning $20 million dollars at the box office during its run. More importantly, it has brought in more than $100 million from video rentals in the years since, making it one of MGM’s top 20 all time moneymakers. Take that, critics!



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