Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including the new Kevin Bacon psychological thriller “You Should Have Left,” the Heather Graham family drama “The Rest of Us,” the “Showgirls” rethink “You Don’t Nomi” and “Mr. Jones,” the true-life story of one journalist’s journey to tell the truth.
The title “You Don’t Nomi” is a pun based on the name of the character played by Elizabeth Berkley in the notorious movie “Showgirls.” A new documentary by Jeffrey McHale, now on VOD, digs deep into a movie “New York Times” critic Janet Maslin called a “bare-butted bore” in 1995 but has since been given a critical reassessment. “I don’t think we’re done with it,” says writer Haley Mlotek, “because I don’t think we know what it means as a film.”
For the initiated “Showgirls” is a big-budget “erotic drama”—one writer called it a “$40 million stag party”—penned by Joe Eszterhas and directed by Paul Verhoeven, the team behind “Basic Instinct.” It’s the tawdry tale of Polly Ann Costello, a.k.a. Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley), a young drifter who will do almost anything (or anyone) to become a star as a Las Vegas showgirl.
It was meant to be Berkley’s move to adult roles after finding fame on the squeaky-clean kiddie sitcom “Saved by the Bell.” Instead, the over-the-top film was savaged by critics, dismissed as misogynistic by audiences, protested by LGBTQ groups as it became an albatross around the Berkley’s boa clad neck.
Using clips aplenty from Verhoeven’s film and the disembodied voices of film critics and academics, “You Don’t Nomi” aims to reexamine the perceived wisdom about the film. Is it a terrible joke, a campy “All About Eve” or is it a misunderstood masterpiece?
The truth is that it is probably somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. “Showgirls” superfan and critic Adam Nayman offers up a compelling breakdown of Verhoeven’s visual style dispelling early criticism of the film as a poorly made exploitation flick. It may be exploitive, but it is not poorly made. Other voices chimes in, some dissenting but most leaning toward the film as an exercise in maximal cinema. One critic suggests that if we brush aside any expectation of realism or naturalism and the movie takes on a new life as a hyper-stylized kind of filmmaking.
Poet Jeffrey Conway likens the film to camp classics like “Valley of the Dolls” and “Mommie Dearest,” movies that are “impossibly bad and impossibly thrilling at the same time.”
As a clever assemblage of clips and opinion “You Don’t Nomi” is entertaining and may make you want to revisit the film’s sleazy milieu, but it feels more like a DVD extra for a new, deluxe “Showgirls” release than a feature doc.
Jennifer Lawrence once showed me a cell phone snap of herself dressed in a fierce black leather outfit.
She was hot off the success of her Oscar nominated work in Winter’s Bone and used the photo as part of her audition for a role that every actress of a certain age in Hollywood clamoured for in 2010.
She didn’t get the part of Lisbeth Salander, the pierced and inked computer hacker star of David Fincher’s remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—the producers thought she was too tall—Rooney Mara did, but not before auditioning five times and beating out better known hopefuls like Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson and Anne Hathaway.
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was 2011’s big literary adaptation, ripe with star making possibilities and lucrative franchise potential. It didn’t pan out that way but Hollywood hasn’t given up on bringing bestsellers to the screen.
This week there are high hopes for Fifty Shades of Grey. Calling the story of college graduate Anastasia Steele and BDSM enthusiast Christian Grey a “literary” adaptation might be a stretch, but with 100 million books sold (including parts two and three) there are great expectations.
So, actors should be crawling over one another to star in the film, right? Think again. Unlike Dragon Tattoo, young Hollywood has not exactly been whipping themselves into a frenzy over Fifty Shades. Shailene Woodley apparently had no qualms about performing the film’s explicit bondage scenes, but was already tied up making the Divergent movies.
Emma Watson did have qualms. “Who here actually thinks I would do Fifty Shades of Grey as a movie?” she wrote on twitter.
In the end Dakota Johnson, better known as the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith than for her work on the cancelled sitcom Ben and Kate, won the role and while it might make her a star there are dangers involved with a project like this. Just ask Elizabeth Berkley.
Berkley was a wholesome teen model and star of the sit com Saved by the Bell when a role in Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 sexploitation flick Showgirls left her career in tatters. As the untested star who bared her soul and body in a big budget film she took the hit for the film’s failure.
Almost twenty-years later she was still emotional about the backlash she suffered. After a performing an erotic dance on Dancing with the Stars she tearfully said, “it reconnected me to when I was just a young woman and took a risk creatively and did Showgirls. With that came a lot of doors being slammed in my face.”
Will Johnson be the next Berkley? According to ticket-selling site Fandango Fifty Shades of Grey is the fastest selling R-rated title ever, so Dakota may yet be spared a tearful breakdown in Dancing with the Stars in 2035.