As I’ll note to anyone who will listen, Dutch director Paul Verhoeven was right about everything. I said it in this anniversary piece on Total Recall here, and I’ll say it now as we look at You Don’t Nomi, director Jeffrey McHale’s bold documentary that attempts – and generally succeeds – in rehabilitating the reputation of Verhoeven’s infamous 1995 erotic stinker, Showgirls.
Ah, Showgirls. Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’ follow-up to their controversial but successful steamy thriller, Basic Instinct, Showgirls follows the fortunes of sexy drifter Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley, fresh off teen comedy series Saved by the Bell) as she tries to make it as a feature dancer in glittering Las Vegas, baby. Doubling down on the explicit sex of Basic Instinct, Showgirls really pushes the boundaries of onscreen nudity and sexual behaviour (it was the first and last NC-17 flick to get a wide release), apparently to a degree that mainstream audiences simply couldn’t accommodate. The film not only took a critical drubbing (something Verhoeven was not unfamiliar with), it was box office toxin, too. Berkley’s career never recovered, while critics competed over who could load their pen with the deadliest poison. When Showgirls cleaned up at the Razzie Awards, Verhoeven, a man with an unshakeable sense of self, was on hand to take a bow, the first director in history to collect the statue for Worst Film of the Year.