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Entries in Flop (1)



Featuring (voice only): Jeffery Conway, Joshua Grannell, April Kidwell, Haley Mlotek, Adam Neyman and David Schmader.
Archive Footage: Elizabeth Berkely (pictured, below), Joe Eszterhaus, Paul Verhoeven, Gina Gershon and Kyle MacLachlan.
Director: Jeffery McHale

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Artful, incisive documentary analysis into the legacy left by cinematic classics has emerged as genre unto itself in recent years. Rodney Asher deep-dove into the conspiratorial mythology of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining with Room 237 (2012), and Alexandre O. Phillippe took a scalpel to the most famous shower in film history with his Hitchcock autopsy, 78/52 (2017).

That Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls finds itself in the company of such milestone movies may surprise some but, by the end of Jeffery McHale’s You Don’t Nomi, it somehow seems appropriate.

McHale comes at the much-maligned 1995 melodrama from angles both academic and humanistic. He initially contends that understanding the most critically reviled film of Verhoeven’s career can only be fully realised if one studies his run of critically adored works. The very motifs evident in his anti-establishment Dutch classics (Diary of a Hooker, 1971; Turkish Delight, 1973; Katie Tippel, 1975; Soldier of Orange, 1977; Spetters, 1980) and the Hollywood blockbusters that made him so bankable (Robocop, 1987; Total Recall, 1990; Basic Instinct, 1992) – elements like sexualised violence, drama pitched high and richly conjured mise-en-scene - were used against him to condemn Showgirls, his second collaboration with iconoclast scriptwriter Joe Ezsterhaus. (Pictured, below; Berkeley and Verhoeven, on-set)

In a cute stylistic touch, McHale uses scenes from Verhoeven’s own The 4th Man (1983), featuring Jeroen Krabbé, to help explore the director’s modus operandi, in scenes that any self-respecting film buff will adore. The analysis extends to the Dutchman’s post-Showgirls films (Starship Troopers, 1997; Hollow Man, 2000; Black Book, 2006; Elle, 2016), as well as EPK and BTS footage that paints a picture of the director as both a moviemaking genius with a very 'European' love of the human form and a pre-#MeToo eccentric obsessed with the sensational.

Despite some of the most scathing reviews in modern film history (‘Trashdance’ was one of the kinder headlines of the day), Showgirls has slowly resurrected itself as a retro-screening must-see. You Don’t Nomi affords the cult followers a voice to vouch for its worth, most notable in a narrative detour that recounts how an actress recreating the lead role of ‘Nomi Malone’ on stage brought her post-assault PTSD into manageable focus.

Of course, the star of You Don’t Nomi, just as she was the star of Showgirls, is ‘Nomi Malone’ herself, Elizabeth Berkeley. The teen sitcom star whose ego/career/life soared then plummeted in the wake of her casting has become an enigmatic presence in the town that shredded her young life. The actress’ appearances since the film (presented here as archive footage) suggest she is reconciled to her fate as a Hollywood pariah. If Jeffery McHale’s film doesn’t quite realign the reputation of Verhoeven’s misunderstood mega-flop, it certainly paints a picture of a film that is a true auteur’s vision, enlivened by an actress’ devotion and worthy of its audience’s adoration.