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“Showgirls” Gets The Documentary Treatment With “You Don’t Nomi”

Why would anyone want to make a documentary about the film, as well as the legacy of, Showgirls? Well, according to You Don’t Nomi, there’s a multitude of reasons. The doc, opening on Tuesday, doesn’t always provide the most compelling of arguments, but it does have its heart in the right place, as well as enthusiasm to spare. That’s what ultimately makes the movie work, giving it a slightly flawed kinship to the highly flawed cult flick it’s paying tribute to. If you love Showgirls, you’ll fall hard for this one, but if you hate Showgirls, this might actually be your entry point into seeing the other side of the argument.

The film is a long form documentary essay on the cult classic/once reviled work Showgirls, which was met by audiences and critics upon its release with near universal derision, hatred, and mockery. Taking home Razzie Awards, writer Joe Eszterhas, director Paul Verhoeven, and star Elizabeth Berkley were made immense fun of, seen as having made an epic flop. Perhaps that’s true, but perhaps…not? Looking at the flick through a critical as well as cultural eye, writer Adam Nayman of Vice Guide to Film, April Kidwell ofI, Nomi, and drag performer Peaches Christ are some of the narrators who put up Showgirls as a bit of a misunderstood classic. Maybe it was bad, but maybe it’s so bad it’s good. Or, as some put forth, maybe it’s just plain old good? Decide for yourself. Jeffrey McHale directs, with music by Mark De Gli Antoni.

Ever since its release, Showgirls has developed a reputation. This movie posits that some of its reputation is well earned, but much of it is not. Does Jeffrey McHale and the talking head narrators/subjects repeat their points over and over again? Yes. Do they have trouble drilling down on certain topics, resulting in a bit of a scattershot approach to already manic material? Certainly. Does it still result in a fun documentary? It sure does. Even if you lean closer to the movie being bad, the doc gives you ample ammunition. There’s something here for the bad crowd, the so bad it’s good crowd, and even the masterpiece crowd, which is by far the smallest of crowds (personally, I’m somewhere in between the first two groups).

You Don’t Nomi misses the mark in some ways, but also is undeniably enjoyable to watch. A lot of the points made by the critics here are iffy, at best, while the narration is dull, but the clips are expertly curated. Plus, a move in the final section to look at the therapeutic impact the flick has had for some, as well as seeing Elizabeth Berkley finally feted for her bold choices, actually does come across rather emotionally. That’s where the heart of the documentary resides. Up until then, it’s a doc that cult classic cinephiles would appreciate more than anyone else. By the end, however, it fixes that and sticks the landing.

On Tuesday, fans of Showgirls should definitely watch You Don’t Nomi, but those who hate it should also give this one a shot. It’s an interesting look at a movie you probably haven’t thought much about recently, and that’s always a good quality in a documentary about cinema, or in this case, a cinematic effort. A deeper dive certainly could have been done, but this is far deeper than most have ever gone on Showgirls. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to revisit a cult flick that may have just been ahead of its time…

Be sure to check out You Don’t Nomi, available to watch on Tuesday, June 9th!

(Photos courtesy of RLJE Films)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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