Combustible Celluloid
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With: Joshua Grannell, April Kidwell, Haley Mlotek, Adam Nayman, David Schmader
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Jeffrey McHale
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 92
Date: 06/09/2020

You Don't Nomi (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Doggy Chow

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A few weeks ago, the three part Time Warp documentary unpacked a selection of cult classic movies, including a section on Showgirls. The new documentary You Don't Nomi devotes all of its 92 minutes to that notorious 1995 flop, which has been newly embraced by a legion of passionate fans.

Directed by Jeffrey McHale, the movie begins, of course, with the original 1995 reviews, including one by former SF Examiner critic Barbara Shulgasser as well as Siskel & Ebert on their TV show. There's a certain amount of ire directed at these people, who were just doing their jobs, and seeing the movie when it was new; they did not have the benefit of 20-20 hindsight.

Then we hear several voices coming to the film's defense, including Adam Nayman, author of It Doesn't Suck: Showgirls. (The doc largely consists of clips, and no talking heads, only voice-overs.) There are some interesting observations, such as the movie's use of mirrors, the implications of the name "Nomi," and some of its widescreen compositions, as well as its visual connections to director Paul Verhoeven's other movies. Star Elizabeth Berkeley gets plenty of kudos for her outlandish portrayal, with all its bizarre outbursts; many see it as an expression of power and/or freedom, perhaps not very different from, say, Divine's work in John Waters's films.

But even these defenders have to admit that Showgirls is kind of a bad movie. For all the clever use of clips from Verhoeven's entire library, barely any mention is made of Hollow Man (2000), which is every bit as bad as, and perhaps worse than, Showgirls. It's proof that, yes, Verhoeven is fallible, and that not everything panned is worth defending.

Weirdly, neither Verhoeven, Berkeley, co-stars Gina Gershon and Kyle MacLachlan, or infamous screenwriter Joe Eszterhas are interviewed for the doc, although they all appear in (or are quoted from) archival interviews. (Gershon at least appeared in Time Warp.) San Francisco's Joshua Grannell, otherwise known as Peaches Christ, who first helped rescue the film and start to develop its cult following, is feautured. Overall, I think You Don't Nomi is a better movie than Showgirls, but it also inspired me to, maybe, one day, see Showgirls again.

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