Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Just For Show

I just read a short book by Adam Nayman from the ECW Press entitled It Doesn't Suck  It's about Showgirls.  The title, taken from a line in the movie, argues in favor of the film so widely dismissed when released almost 20 years ago. The book is well-written and intelligently argued, managing to be both humorous and serious at the same time (not unlike the film?).

I remember when Showgirls was released the same time as Seven.  I found the former dopey but fun, while I thought the latter--a highly-regarded hit--dopey and annoying.  Showgirls has been gaining converts since, but it's mostly still considered disastrous.

Taking us through the film scene by scene, the book places the work in the context of director Paul Verhoeven's oeuvre.  Oddly, while critics saw the satire in stuff such as Robocop and Starship Troopers, they felt Showgirls was meant seriously.

Perhaps scriptwriter Joe Eszterhas may have meant it to be taken straight, but Verhoven's work should make us take a second look.  The two had just come off a huge hit, Basic Instinct, mixing sex and crime, and Showgirls seemed a natural--more sex, more violence, and the crassness of Vegas thrown in.  But no matter what Joe thought he was doing, Paul loved to look at America (and the world) as if he was an alien wondering just what's going on here. (Their names are hard to spell, which has put me on a first-name basis with them.)

I wouldn't call the book tongue in cheek, but it recognizes the film fails by certain standard measurement--especially lead Elizabeth Berkley's performance (though not that of nemesis Gina Gershon)--but that's part of the point.  The film uses excess to say what it has to, and once you get past some of the silliness, it improves on subsequent viewings.

Decide for yourself, but it you want some witty and surprisingly deep film criticism, it's quite a read.

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