Elizabeth Berkley played Nomi Malone in ‘Showgirls’
Elizabeth Berkley played Nomi Malone in ‘Showgirls’ © Getty

Cats? The stuff of amateurs. Tom Hooper may still be licking his wounds after his feline mishap, but in the ranks of reviled calamities, another movie remains way ahead of him. Showgirls, Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 study of Vegas mores, was a none-more-notorious bomb, but one whose afterlife now prompts Jeffrey McHale’s spry documentary You Don’t Nomi, a love letter sent with reservations. Film maudit is the cinephile term — the fascination now as then lying in how a studio production could get quite this much so wrong, every review a gleeful stinker. But then, as if the film had been found sobbing at the side of the road, those same faux pas — the Martian performance of star Elizabeth Berkley as Nomi Malone, the jaw-dropping dialogue of writer Joe Eszteras — saw it reclaimed as camp and treasured by fans.

Still, movies age unpredictably. Now, McHale argues, it might also be time to recognise the flaws and the flashes of inspiration, the glitter in the muck of a strange, singular film from a fraught cultural moment, released against the background of the OJ Simpson trial and Paula Jones’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill Clinton. The lesson is obvious. Never to listen to critics.

★★★★☆

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