Desert Companion
 
Subscribe now
Current Issue
SEPTEMBER 2014
Click the cover to read the complete digital edition
Features
Ones to Watch

Departments
All things to all people
Dining
Editor's Note
End Note
Essay
Fiction
Notes and letters
Profile
Q + A
Sports
Take 5
the guide
upcoming events
Take 5
Through Sep. 1, 11a and 1p. The real animals in Vegas come out at night. Some are freaky, some are sneaky and some are downright creepy....   
Through Sep. 1, 10a-6p. Eighteen holes of serious indoor fun. Explore a tropical rainforest, navigate a polluted waterway and learn how to make a...   
Sep. 3, 7:30p. Professor of History Eugene Moehring will analyze the development of Reno and Las Vegas since 1945, with special emphasis on the...   
  0

By challenging our fond belief that Showgirls sucked, a new book offers thoughts on how to evaluate culture

All these years later, it might be hard to recall the critical stink bombs that rained on Showgirls when it came out in 1995. Trust us: Reviews were brutal. Made in a clear spirit of provocation by the guys behind Basic Instinct — director Paul Verhoeven (Robo-Cop, Total Recall) and writer Joe Eszterhas (Flashdance) — it starred Elizabeth Berkley as Nomi, an ambitious stripper clawing and sexing her way through Vegas’ treacherous entertainment biz. According to the critical hive-mind, Showgirls was lurid, grotesque and — when Berkley was onscreen — heinously acted. Worst film ever, many said. It departed in a shower of contemptuous Razzie Awards, its status as a legendary failure sealed.

Adam Nayman wants to unseal it. The Canadian film critic has written It Doesn’t Suck (ECW Press, $12.95), a game attempt to reposition this classic howler as an underappreciated masterpiece — or, mind-bendingly, maybe both. “I am serious,” he says, guessing your first question.

What does such a rethink entail? From the book and a chat with Nayman, here are a few pointers for appraising a (supposed) wreck like Showgirls — or any work of, ahem, art.

Don’t pre-judge. It’s clear to him that Showgirls suffered for the fantastically successful sins of Basic Instinct. Critics, aghast at that movie's cynical manipulation of Sharon Stone’s vagina, had their knives out for this next Eszterhas/Verhoeven pervathon. Audiences, still uneasy about turning such a nasty film into a hit, stayed away. "The two still had blood on their hands from Basic Instinct," Nayman writes, "and it can be hard to outrun your past." He adds, "Showgirls had very little chance to settle into theaters" before it became a cultural punchline. "I'm not sure the climate was right" for an honest appraisal. Time has helped: Showgirls became a top-selling home video, and Nayman's book is part of a critical rehab that's been underway for years.

Mind the details. Asked for a scene that might cue a more nuanced take on Showgirls, Nayman suggests a dinner between Nomi and the far more successful Cristal, played by Gina Gershon. "Verhoeven violates the 180-degree rule," he writes; that is, each character should stay on her side of the screen. Here, halfway through, they switch. A veteran filmmaker, Verhoeven knows the rule. But by violating it, he crystallizes the film’s character dynamic: Nomi not only wants what Cristal has, she wants to be Cristal. It's one of many example of the fluid technique that tells Nayman there's more going on here than the Razzies let on.

Instead of just “good” or “bad,” wonder about decisions. This brings us to Berkley’s acting. Nayman doesn’t contend that it's conventionally good. But one thing seems clear: Her over-the-top performance was a choice. So: Whose? Why? One theory, which requires thinking a bit outside the frame: Verhoeven — a satirist, after all — joined her bad acting to good filmmaking as a meta challenge to Hollywood's established values. So, while it's set in a soulless Vegas, Showgirls may truly be about soulless Tinseltown. About Berkley's acting, there's no certain answer — it's the questioning that matters. “The performance is what it is,” he writes, “and both Showgirls the Masterpiece and Showgirls the Piece of Shit are unimaginable without it.” And here we are, still talking about it 20 years later.

Not everyone buys this rereading, of course. Responding to Nayman, Esquire cultural critic Stephen Marche rewatched Showgirls: “The only way I could see Showgirls as a good film is if I completely re-established my criteria of aesthetic values …”

No kidding. But what if that was the point all along?


Comments





























































 

Best Doctors
Norm
Norm
Play the desert companion video

DC Scene
Recent Posts
8/29/14  
Looking back
8/27/14  
Door
8/25/14  
School starting + bacon jam
{more posts...}


Archives
Archives

Newstand Locations
Pick up your Desert Companion today at one of these Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf or Jamba Juice locations.
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf LAKE MEAD & TENAYA
7291 W Lake Mead
Directions


PALMS CASINO
4321 W Flamingo Rd
Directions


UNLV
4550 W Maryland Pkwy Suite A
Directions


CARNIVALE
3377 Las Vegas Blvd
The Venetian Food Court
Directions


THE LAKES
9091 W Sahara Ave
Directions


THE DISTRICT
2220 Village Walk Dr Suite 140
Directions


MIRACLE MILE
3663 Las Vegas Blvd S Suite 45
Directions


CANYON POINT
10834 W Charleston Blvd Suite 200
Directions


TOWN CENTER
3645 S Town Center Dr Suite 101
Directions


PATRICK
6115 S Rainbow Blvd Suite 101
Directions


PALAZZO
3265 Las Vegas Blvd, Suite 1600
Directions


TOWN SQUARE
6599 Las Vegas Blvd, South #P-8149
Directions


BRIDGE
3377 Las Vegas Blvd
The Venetian
Directions


BOULDER CITY
Boulder Dam Credit Union
530 Avenue G
Boulder City NV
Directions

Jumba Juice

PEBBLE
1500 N. Green Valley Pkwy Suite 240
Directions


SAHARA & EASTERN
2675 S. Eastern Ave Suite 400
Directions


MCCARRAN MARKETPLACE
5905 S Eastern Ave Suite 108
Directions
NORTH MESA PLAZA
1829 W. Craig Road Unit 3
Directions


CANNERY CORNER
2546 E. Craig Road Suite 135
Directions


WESTLAND FAIR
1121 S. Decatur Blvd
Directions



Also available at Clark County and Henderson libraries.
Emerald City Smoothie

ST GEORGE
2376 East Red Cliffs Drive #502
St. George, UT 84790
Directions


Desert Companion