Review by Sean Boelman
Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls stands the test of time as one of the most reviled films in cinema history, and yet, there is an ever-growing group of fans who hail it as a misunderstood masterpiece (a school of thought to which this critic ascribes). The new documentary You Don’t Nomi, directed by Jeffrey McHale, is made by and for that fanbase, although it may win some converts for the cult classic.
In the documentary, McHale and a group of critics and fans make an argument as to why Showgirls is long overdue for a widespread critical reevaluation. Although the target audience of the documentary are those that have the least to gain from these arguments, as they will likely already feel the same way, McHale et al. offer some effective tools that can be used in further discussions about the film.
A majority of the documentary’s story is told through footage from the film and archive materials supplemented by voiceover narration from critics who are passionate about Verhoeven’s supposed opuscule. The chief of those is Adam Nayman, who wrote an entire book about the topic and brings an air of legitimacy to the arguments set forth.
McHale obviously does a very good job of letting the film speak for itself by comparing clips from Showgirls with scenes pulled from other, more acclaimed work in Verhoeven’s repertoire. He does, however, acknowledge some of the undeniable flaws associated with some of the more extreme content towards the latter half of the film.
The thing that the documentary is largely missing is interviews with those that are involved in the film. McHale does make use of some pre-taped interviews and public appearances that the stars and directors made, but this missing element keeps the documentary within adulation territory rather than a deeper exploration of the film and its context.
Although this will easily keep the interest of any who already have a stake in the material, those who haven’t already seen Showgirls may find themselves lost trying to keep up with the in-depth analysis that the interviews offer. As such, the documentary’s broad appeal will be significantly limited.
That said, there are a few moments in the documentary that discuss the greater impact that Showgirls had. From nearly derailing the course of its director’s career to inspiring an off-Broadway musical with a cult following of its own, it is these moments that McHale brings to light that will leave the most lasting impact on viewers.
You Don’t Nomi is a really interesting documentary, but it is unlikely that most viewers will have the same connection to it. Although this is a hugely unexpected statement, this definitely could have benefitted from the use of some talking heads.
You Don’t Nomi hits VOD on June 9.