A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 95 – Showgirls

Showgirls – June 3rd, 2010

This is a wretched movie. It’s wretched for so very many reasons, not the least of which is that the main character, Nomi, is thoroughly unlikable. Are you supposed to root for her? I have no idea. I’ve always thought she was horrible. In fact, a large number of characters in this movie are unlikable. Most of the women, aside from Molly and Gay. Pretty much all the guys except the ones in the corps at the Stardust. I think James is supposed to be semi-likable? I’m not sure. He sees through pretty much everyone around Nomi, and he sees through her too, but he’s also a complete jackass. Really, everyone’s two-faced and obnoxious and petty and they suck. The acting is scenery-chewing at its very hammiest, with the hammiest of hams being Elizabeth Berkeley. At least Gina Gershon admits she knew she was in a total cheesefest and played it to the hilt. The script is nothing special – believe me – and the story isn’t special either. So what this movie has going for it is the tits. And it has plenty of those. Tits-ahoy. The movie never misses a chance to show them off.

I want to say right here and now, the reason we put this in tonight is because Tyce Diorio, one of the choreographers on So You Think You Can Dance, is one of the male dancers. Oh, he doesn’t have a speaking role, but we did spot him. He’s got long messy hair and helps Nomi strip out of her costume during her debut performance in Goddess. I laughed for a full three minutes when we spotted him. Oh, Tyce. This is the second movie we have with him (the first being Robin Hood: Men in Tights). And, you know, the dancing’s not horrible. The corps is fine. But tonight’s SYTYCD auditions will be a balm after this movie. Even the Montage of Shame will be easier to watch than Elizabeth Berkeley.

So okay, Nomi Malone, whose name isn’t really Nomi Malone but whatever, we’ll get to that, hitchhikes her way to Vegas to become a dancer. Obviously it’s not easy and when she gets there the guy she hitchhiked in with ditches her and steals her suitcase. She gets all pissed off and beats up a stranger’s car. Good for her that stranger is the Nicest Girl In Vegas and buys her a meal and offers to let her crash at her place. Molly, as I’ve mentioned, is one of the few likable characters in the movie. She is a truly nice person, which means that when Nomi gets a job in the corps for the show Molly’s a costume assistant for and immediately gets involved in the bitchery and politics and fucking around that go on in the cast, Molly gets a front row seat to watch her friend learn some first class nastiness. Except it’s pretty clear that Nomi was well-versed in backstabbing and screwing people over (figuratively and literally) so the petty disputes of the other corps girls is all old news. To learn anything new, Nomi has to watch the star of the show, Cristal Connors. Cristal teaches a masters class in mean and she’s sleeping with the “Entertainment Director” (Kyle MacLachlan as Zack) for the hotel the show’s at. By the end of the movie Nomi’s slept with him too and pushed Cristal down a flight of stairs to get the lead.

Somewhere in there Nomi also meets a guy, James, who has a thing for her and wants to write a piece for her to dance to, but like I said, while sometimes he seems to be a decent guy? It turns out he’s not. At all. She also has a weirdly fond goodbye with the owner of the strip club she started at, and then there’s the whole thing with Cristal. They spend the whole movie testing each other and shoving each other and it’s flat out stated by Zack that Cristal has a thing for Nomi. And then they kiss in Cristal’s hospital room and it’s certainly not chaste. So it’s unclear exactly what’s going on there, but, you know, who cares, right? Tits! Look! Tits and sex and Nomi gets her big role and she’s on top of the world!

You’d think that would be the end, except no. The movie apparently realized it had made its lead thoroughly despicable and had to give her some sort of redemption. After all, she started out penniless and hopeless and ended up with a starring role in a huge Vegas show. So having her be unlikable just won’t cut it. She’s got to be likable somehow! And how was that done? Well, poor Molly, who is far too nice for this movie, gets raped by a rock star she’s a fan of (and whom Nomi introduced her to) and Nomi goes to his hotel and kicks him in the face a lot. That’s her redemption. She kicks the shit out of her friend’s rapist. And you know, I’m not arguing with getting some revenge in on the guy, but the movie sets up the only truly likable person in the entire cast and has her raped so Nomi can have a redemption arc. I have no words. What can I say about that? And then we find out Nomi used to be a prostitute and her father killed her mother and that’s why she’s had such an attitude through the whole movie. Might have been better for the character if they’d explained that earlier on so you knew why she was pulling a knife on people. Oh, and then she hitchhikes away from Vegas. I think. It’s really unclear.

What I take away from this movie is that the only way to live in Vegas (or rather, the Vegas in the movie – having only been to Vegas once I can’t speak for the actual city) is to be despicable. Nice folks like Molly should just steer clear, apparently. Nice doesn’t work in Vegas. Nice gets you hurt. But then, being a bitch eventually gets you hurt too. So maybe the actual thing I take away from this movie is that a woman can get to the top if she’s mean enough and willing to kick or kiss the asses of her friends and associates. The only ones who ever really win are the men who already have the money. I somehow doubt that was the actual intent of the movie, but that’s the message.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Showgirls

June 3, 2010

Showgirls

I’ll admit that I’ve never seen this movie. I bought it for the project because it was so infamously bad. Sort of like a dare. And ever since I’ve been looking forward to watching it and kind of dreading watching it at the same time. Today we are continuing our attempt to do movies on Thursdays that are related to So You Think You Can Dance and that gives us an excuse to watch this famously awful film because Tyce Diorio is in it. (It’s hilarious! You simply have to see the scene where he smoulderingly removes the lead character’s clothes during a dance number. We couldn’t stop laughing.)

I had the notion going into this that I’d do some kind of “boobie count” and see just how many girls get their tops off. You know, to help pass the time. Unfortunately I grossly underestimated the extent to which this film overdoes the toplessness. Hmm. Maybe I should attempt to count the number of scenes where no actress reveals her nipples. So far I’ve counted six. Who’d have ever thought that a movie about exploitation of girls could actually desensitize you towards naked breasts? Actually, I’m beginning to prefer the scenes when the actresses aren’t fully clothed because when they’re fully dressed they have to wrap their mouths around the preposterous dialog.

I really can’t figure this movie out. I think it’s supposed to be the tale of the rise and fall of an innocent young girl who goes to Las Vegas to become a dancer, but who steadfastly refuses to compromise her morals. Except that she proceeds to compromise whatever morals she might possibly have at every opportunity. She refuses to sleep around to advance her career, but sleeps with the producer of her show. It’s very difficult to figure out what it is that Nomi actually wants. I can’t entirely blame Elizabeth Berkley – she has some almost comical performance choices (particularly at the start of the movie when she’s supposed to be upset and destitute) but the part as written is a complete mess as well.

In one of the sort of typical-for-this-movie scenes Nomi goes to an audition where the director – a self professed prick – demands that the girls take their tops off. Which seems perfectly reasonable for an audition for a topless cabaret act. But the girls all hesitate. Which is odd because Nomi was recruited from a topless bar – so why does she suddenly turn all shy for that scene? Aargh! My head! It hurts! Ten seconds later she’s back to taking her top off for no reason at every opportunity and has implausibly raucous sex with the show’s producer. Not because she wants to advance in her career (or so she repeatedly claims afterwards) but not because she wants to be with him either (because she seems to hold him in disdain right up until the moment that she spontaneously invites herself over to his place.) She has no clear motivation for anything she does in the whole movie – she just kind of bops around flailing her tits in the air and destroying the lives of everybody she comes into contact with.

Seriously – every single character in the movie is worse off for having met her. How does that make for a compelling heroine? Do people WANT to see the story of a wishy-washy bimbo who flaunts her body, claims to have some moral high ground, and stands idly by while everybody who seems to help her or care for her has their life go to hell?

I suppose I shouldn’t expect any kind of sense out of the movie. It’s a big exploitative mess. But I feel let down that in the end I have no more idea what’s going on than I did at the start. I should have just relaxed and enjoyed all the breasts, but like I said there’s kind of overkill on that level too. So what do you call a movie that’s too big-budget and glitzy to be pure porn, too poorly written to work as as serious film, and doesn’t even really work as camp?

On a kind of meta level I have to wonder how awful it was making this movie. I got to thinking about half way through the film about what the auditions for the part of Nomi must have been, and could they have been as awful as the audition that Nomi goes to when she’s trying to get into the show at the Stardust. I get the impression that the sleaze we see on the screen is only a cleaned up and slightly toned down version of the true sleaze behind the scenes, which makes me feel kind of slimy for watching the finished product.

I don’t want to say that this movie is truly irredeemable. It’s gotten so much bad press that I feel like I’m beating up on an easy target if I do. It’s got some pretty high production values and clearly involved a lot of effort – I just can’t figure out what it is. It’s like it came into this universe from someplace slightly alien. It tries at times to be camp (like when Nomi’s old boss Al from the strip join she used to work at visits her once her career is off the ground. He seems genuinely befuddled that she wouldn’t want to be back at the strip joint giving lap dances to slimy clients. And the scene implies that there’s some nostalgia for her there as well.) It tries to be pure sleaze (like pretty much every dance number and strip routine.) It tries to have some dramatic message about how we can become everything we most despise. It has two or three failed romantic sub-plots (because everybody who meets Nomi either loves her or wants her – in spite of the fact that in at least one case she blatantly kicks a suitor in the balls.) It has a strange revenge fueled action scene.

I’m not going to give it the “it stinks” tag in my review because I have the feeling that in some strange way it doesn’t. It’s almost as though there’s a decent movie buried in all this fail which I’m just too thick to pick up on. I know I certainly feel dumber for having watched it.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 2 Comments