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Review: "You Don't Nomi" is a Well-Rounded View of a Cult Classic

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jul 21, 2020
'You Don't Nomi'
'You Don't Nomi'  

Paul Verhoeven's "Showgirls" was unjustly maligned upon its initial release in 1995. Proudly wearing the NC-17 rating like a badge of honor, viewers were subjected to a bawdy story of glitz and glamour in Las Vegas with a central heroine who had as wild an attitude as she did dance moves. After almost 25 years, the film has earned a new life through critical reappraisal and an audience that finds trash worthwhile. This sets up "You Don't Nomi" with a difficult task: How do you pinpoint the exact moment and details of such a reappraisal since it's become abundantly clear that "Showgirls" means different things to different people? In short: You don't.

"You Don't Nomi" isn't just perversely fascinated with the life that "Showgirls" has in popular culture, it's obsessed with the notion that good art and even bad art can transcend and become something new. So, it lets people just as obsessed talk about the critical and box office bomb. Notably, author/critic Adam Nayman has written tirelessly on the film and is able to flex his own theories with the same conviction he gets across in his writing here. "You Don't Nomi" even brings April Kidwell, the actress who played Nomi in "Showgirls! The Musical," to tell her own tale of how the film and its many harebrained ideas helped her through her own trauma.

Initially tracking the film's critical and cultural reception through the years and then running off into tangents about certain aspects, "You Don't Nomi" may lack focus but makes up for all of that by offering up no clear answers as to why "Showgirls" should or should not work. Rather, it pays close attention to the interpretation of art by a league of people who can speak succinctly and breathlessly about what the film means to them and how it has changed their lives.

One thing I really enjoyed about "You Don't Nomi" is that it evades the classic talking heads format of documentary to keep visually fresh and exciting. The pans over original newspaper headlines and use of archival footage from a bounty of other maligned films make this doc's format one to praise. Instead of just placing the camera in the room with a bunch of noted "Showgirls" experts, Director Jeffrey McHale is able to pull footage to back the theories his own film presents, which is something other documentaries wouldn't care to do. If you invite noted experts on a subject to share their take on something, the audience can be asked or told to believe them without much thought. But just like the best and worst of art, interpretation is mined from beliefs or things accepted as fact.

There's a witty side to McHale's "You Don't Nomi," too. He inserts certain shots of "Showgirls" into Verhoeven's other films in ways that may seem pretty funny at first, but then it becomes clear that this is to show us that the writing was on the wall with Verhoeven. The director showed much of the same themes or visual motifs from "Showgirls" in his other films, and many of them received endless praise. So, what went wrong? One reading is that once the bad reviews started rolling out about his 1995 trash masterpiece, the following reviews didn't even try to engage with the film and just labeled it as bad.

Despite a structure that doesn't seem sustainable for 90 minutes, "You Don't Nomi" is able to ride the enthusiasm of its subjects and gives a well-rounded view of "Showgirls" as art that was unjustly put into a box and discarded. I look forward to seeing what McHale does next, as many of the things he touches upon here are very thoroughly researched and presented.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray July 21, 2020

You Don't Nomi

A house tuner meets a client with a problem he cannot solve.


Language :: Silent

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