In what is now an infamous performance, Elizabeth Berkley plays Nomi Malone, an ambitious young woman who arrives in Las Vegas intending to take the world of casino dance shows by storm.
Faced with an utterly vicious and exploitative industry, she slowly climbs her way to the top of the tree, edging out her great rival Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon) in what is a self-consciously lurid remake of All About Eve for the American ‘90s, and one that takes no prisoners in its’ portrayal of misogyny, sexual exploitation, and female agency.
To say that Showgirls was a disaster on release is something of an understatement. Controversial before it was even completed due to rumours of explicit onscreen sex, it was savaged by critics and audiences alike, eventually becoming a cult classic on home video before taking a fascinatingly winding path to critical reappraisal over the last two decades.
From the vantage point of the 2020’s, Showgirls plays as a kind of high-art trash, its’ conflation of hard-hitting drama, erotic thriller, horror film, and provocative comedy clearly entirely intentional, and it’s no surprise that the film was widely misunderstood in 1995.
As challenging as it is ridiculous, it awaits rediscovery as an utterly unique provocation from one of cinema’s greatest provocateurs.
This film is screening at Tyneside Cinema as FLESH + BLOOD: THE CINEMA OF PAUL VERHOEVEN which you can learn more about here!