Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why Showgirls?

c. David Grim (taken 8/28/10)

I've never been one to seek out movies for the sake of laughing at them. I know that many of my friends have been able to enjoy consuming a pop culture artifact simply for its sheer incompetence. I'm sure you've heard the descriptor, "So bad that it's good". Well, that's never been a particularly compelling way to draw me in. I'm much more likely to put whatever title is described in this way on a mental list of avoidance. Life is too short, and there are plenty of sleepers that are completely worthwhile yet rarely ever talked about. It seems to be a waste to focus on something that isn't very good, despite whatever laughs can be had from viewing it.

Yet there is always an exception that proves the rule for me. A couple of weeks ago I saw "Showgirls" for the very first time. This past weekend I watched it again... on purpose. And you know what? It's great. I think I might actually love it.

I'm not suggesting that everyone is mistaken in their judgment of the movie. It is fair to call it one of the most poorly made films in recent history. And yet still... it shines so brightly in its failure. The acting (especially that of the lead, Elizabeth Berkley) is often ham-handed, and almost always over-the-top. At times it looks like the characters are having convulsions of absurdity. If David Lynch had made this (instead of Paul Verhoeven), it might be considered genius with its inexplicable touches of surrealism. So often lines of dialogue are delivered with the exact opposite pitch than seems required for the scene. And the words themselves seem to have been written by someone who has just learned how to speak English.

Yet it moves at a brisk pace, and it is shiny, and there is an awful lot of T & A. Of course that in itself would not render it amusing. Rather it's the feeling that the movie leaves you with that makes it special. You wonder how in the hell anyone ever thought it would be a good idea. You wonder where the filmmakers did their background research. You wonder if anything like what you see onscreen has ever existed in any remotely similar way before. And I think that you have to conclude that it hasn't, and it never will again.

At one point the lovingly trashy Gina Gershon admits to having savored Puppy Chow in the past. Instead of inspiring puzzlement or even scorn, this admission makes Berkley go all soft inside (despite multiple scenes of poorly-repressed malice between the two characters), as she too has particularly enjoyed such fare. It's hard to figure out what this exchange signifies. It's such a WTF(?) moment that one must make an immediate choice- either embrace the stupidity and laugh along with it, or turn it off immediately. Let me assure you that you have a lot to gain by bearing up under the folly of the moment. You don't want to miss some of the following production numbers, nor the catty hjinks interspersed throughout

Sure, it's possible that some of your friends will sneer at you if you profess your support for "Showgirls". I suggest you take that risk. I can almost guarantee you that you won't be bored.

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