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Reviews » Miscellaneous Reviews » It Doesn't Suck.: Showgirls
It Doesn't Suck.: Showgirls
Other // Unrated // April 15, 2014 // Region 0
List Price: $12.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted June 16, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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In 10 Words or Less
The title is underselling it a bit

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: How Did This Get Made?
Likes: "bad" movies, critical analysis of pop culture
Dislikes: Showgirls (when I saw it in theaters)
Hates: when academics really reach to make a point

The Details
A paperback book (4.75 x 7 in) checking in at 127 pages, with a bright-pink, minimalist cover featuring a soft-touch matte finish and spot UV coating, It Doesn't Suck. is striking looking and compact.

The Book
I haven't revisited Showgirls since, as a new college freshman, I took in a showing at the nearby mall, alongside my friend, way back in 1995. We were two of a select few in the theater, including an older gentleman who, on the way to his seat, felt the need to tell us "when you see the girls, you're gonna want to get up there with them!" He may have been wearing a trenchcoat. The details are unclear. Perhaps that's why my experience with Showgirls is not one I look back upon fondly. That, and the fact that it's a genuinely bad movie (from what I remember of it.)

Adam Nayman doesn't quite share that opinion. A film critic for the Globe and Mail in Canada, he has an appreciation for the film that not many others share, and he's not afraid to share it, as evidenced by his book It Doesn't Suck. (the title of which comes right from the film.) It's the first entry in the "Pop Classics" line from Canadian publisher ECW Press (apparently not affiliated with the defunct pro-wrestling promotion.) The books look at cult pop-culture items from a critical and academic point of view, offering research and analysis, while mixing in a healthy dose of fandom as well. Thus, in defending Showgirls, Nayman calls upon a variety of sources and a strong understanding of film theory and the Paul Verhoeven oeuvre, stating his case that the director's paean to Las Vegas glitter and the grit that lies below it isn't bad, it was just made that way.

After offering a background of the film, including the negative critical reaction, and exploring the concept of camp and cult/midnight movies, Nayman looks at the idea of revisionist criticism, and the effect of repeated viewing on a film's perceived quality. Interestingly, Nayman puts out the possibility that, under specific conditions, a film can be both garbage and a masterpiece. As he points to visual motifs and various themes in the movie, all of which point to thoughtful direction, the idea that Showgirls was poorly made becomes hard to support. Part of that is the history Nayman provides on Verhoeven's career, not to mention that of screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, whom Nayman somewhat blames (rightly?) for the film's failings, a point that anyone with ears can understand when hearing the film's dialogue.

Nayman smartly doesn't view Showgirls in a vacuum, calling upon similarities to another, far more successful Verhoeven/Eszterhas collaboration, Basic Instinct, which offers a number of interesting parallels, especially between Sharon Stone's infamous leg-crossing scene and the casting of Saved by the Bell star Elizabeth Berkley as the lead character Nomi. If Nayman's theory is to be believed, and he does support the idea well, Berkley not only played Nomi, she was Nomi, manipulated by Verhoeven in the name of art. The only thing working against wholesale acceptance of his concept is the stretching he does at times, seeing things that only a true academic would see in a film. However the rest is a well-supported analysis of a critically-savaged film, touching on a variety of related topics, all delivered in an accessible and entertaining manner that any film fan could enjoy.

The Bottom Line
While it's unlikely that It Doesn't Suck. will change the mind of anyone who sits firmly on the negative side of the Showgirls gap, there's no doubt that Nayman has done his homework and comes armed with plenty of arguments as to why the film was at least well-made, even if it's not necessarily good. Sure, some of the points he made could be chalked up to coincidence, but when it comes to Verhoeven, the benefit of the doubt is freely given. And if it proves anything about how well Nayman lays out his arguments, including a fascinating one linking Berkley to her character (and to Stone), after reading the book, I sought out a copy of the film to follow-up.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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