BFI London Film Festival: You Don’t Nomi

You Don’t Nomi
You Don’t Nomi
Directed by Jeffrey McHale
Screening at LFF October 2nd and 3rd 2019

by Alex Plant

When it came out in 1995, Showgirls was a critical bomb that baffled and offended punters and critics alike. In the years following its release it found an audience at midnight movie screenings, becoming a cult phenomenon that even spawned its own off-Broadway musical. Now, 24 years after its release Paul Verhoeven’s perplexing disasterpiece has the perfect companion documentary in Jeffrey Mchale’s You Don’t Nomi.

The film is more of a video-essay akin to Rodney Ascher’s excellent Shining documentary Room 237 than a typical talking-head making-of chronicle. Showgirls truly goes under the knife here. There’s detailed analysis from critics and academics, as well as personal stories from the movie’s many fans. What’s unique about You Don’t Nomi is the fact that it features a pretty even balance of positive and negative appraisals. Sure, there’s an obvious fondness for the “least sexy movie of all-time” here, but also there’s no shying away from some of the more damning content, such as the movie’s misogyny and the representations of its black characters. But the way that McHale places the bad and the “good” elements of Showgirls in context against the rest of Verhoeven’s body of work is fascinating and truly enjoyable.

We get to explore the cult of Showgirls and its impact on the drag scene and ruminate on the nature of Camp. There are even unexpected emotional grace notes, particularly when the film explores how former Saved By The Bell star Elizabeth Berkley took the brunt of the film’s criticism and how it subsequently destroyed her career.

While some view Showgirls as masterpiece and others believe it’s a piece of shit, You Don’t Nomi proposes that both opinions are correct and wonderfully dubs it a “Masterpiece of Shit”. This is a must for fans of cult cinema and is surely likely to fuel the bizarre appeal of Showgirls.


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