Showgirls, mainstream Hollywood’s first intentional venture into the world of NC-17 ratings was an infamous box office flop. But did you know it is one of Sony’ top 20 bestselling DVDs of all time? And yes, probably for the reasons you imagine. There are bare breasts galore in this film. They’re shown so frequently and casually, however, that their erotic appeal (I’m speaking as a heterosexual male here) is almost nil.
The only erotic scenes, ironically, are between women who, for the most part, are fully clothed. So while the movie doesn’t entirely shy from its pornographic nature (most famously in the one-and-only sex scene in which Elizabeth Berkley thrashes around in a pool like a bass on a line) it’s really not steamy.
In fact, a lot of the film is boring, especially a completely useless subplot in which Berkley’s character is pursued incessantly by a wannabe choreographer who, surprise surprise, just wants to have sex with her. Well, depending on whose story you believe. Anyway, the real plot concerns Berkley’s rise through the Showgirl food chain. The film depicts an interesting sisterhood of showgirls and the men who universally treat them like crap. It’s almost like Little Women, in away, except the dancers have no problem sabotaging and one another to gain a better spot in the show. Berkley’s character finally finds her fame and fortune by pushing her rival down a flight of stairs. Who knew a showgirl’s life was so violent?
The running gag of the film is that Berkley’s character is about as bitchy a person as possible. Almost every scene features her storming off angry at somebody. There’s also a meaningless mystery as to Berkley’s “background” in the film, the real of which is about as cliché as you’d expect. All that said, the film does succeed on some level. There’s a closing scene between Berkley and her rival which, dare I say it, is actually touching. A rare moment of compassionate intimacy in a world where nothing is private. Sniff.