Essay film about Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls is most interesting when exploring why the camp classic is so meaningful to women and queer audiences
YOU DON’T NOMI (Jeffrey McHale, U.S.). 90 minutes. Rating: NNN
You Don’t Nomi is a serious documentary about a serious movie. Paul Verhoeven’s histrionic Las Vegas-set satire Showgirls flopped in 1995 but became a camp classic and has undergone critical re-evaluation as a problematic masterpiece. This essay doc argues that multiple readings can coexist, but it’s most interesting when it shows how the elements that made Showgirls unpalatable to straight men are exactly why it became meaningful to women and queer viewers.
Director McHale pairs clips highlighting motifs within Verhoeven’s films (eating, barfing, dousing breasts in champagne, women attacking rapists) with narration by critics – including Toronto’s Adam Nayman, whose It Doesn’t Suck book informs the doc’s structure. His breakdown of the iconic Spago lunch scene is almost as riveting as the original scene.
Despite critic Haley Mlotek’s fascinating feminist analysis of the rape revenge climax and a moving sequence devoted to April Kidwell, a stage actor and sexual assault survivor who starred in Showgirls! The Musical!, McHale weirdly dances around how the film still resonates for its unambiguous satire of rape culture in American entertainment.
Befitting its multiplicity theme, You Don’t Nomi feels both comprehensive and incomplete.