It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 25 years since the film Showgirls was released into the world, like a fry-tossing, gyrating juggernaut. Lambasted, loathed, loved, worshipped – the film rarely finds a viewer whose opinion is “indifferent.” In the new documentary You Don’t Nomi, director Jeffrey McHale takes a deep dive into what Showgirls was intended to be, and how in the past 20-plus years, the film finally found its loving audience.
McHale does so by using both archival interviews of creators and cast, and fresh conversations with Showgirls aficionados like drag legend Peaches Christ and longtime Showgirls evangelist, writer David Schmader. Both Schmader and Peaches hosted popular viewing parties of the film, and Schmader was even invited to provide commentary for the film’s 10 year box set edition. (If you have not heard Schmader’s commentary, find a version and watch asap.)
The documentary explores what went so wrong and so right with the film, and how it unfairly derailed star Elizabeth Berkley‘s career when it was just beginning. Actress April Kidwell is also featured in the doc, and found her own rising star playing Berkley’s characters in the hilarious satires, Bayside the Musical, Showgirls the Musical, and I, Nomi, which is currently touring the country. Kidwell shares deeply personal information about a life-altering experience from her early days in NYC, and how her connection to Berkley, and ultimately Nomi Malone, helped her healing process. It’s not what you would expect from a documentary about a massive Hollywood flop, but it gets to the heart of what Showgirls and its characters have meant to many people.
The queerness of the film is also tackled in You Don’t Nomi, especially the connection between Nomi and rival/mentor Cristal Connors (played to perfection by Gina Gershon). As a young teenager, I myself felt a deep connection to Showgirls and how I saw my own queerness in it. I know this is an experience shared by many a young LGBTQ person who grew up in the 90s and early aughts.
You Don’t Nomi is funny, but smart and engrossing. If you are expecting to see the film lampooned even further, then You Don’t Nomi won’t fit that bill. However, if you want to experience a look at the successes and foibles of what was intended to be a Hollywood musical blockbuster, turned beloved cult classic, then you’ll love You Don’t Nomi.