Is Paul Verhoeven’s “Showgirls” misogynistic sleaze, a midnight-movie laughfest or a suave satire to which the world is still catching up? “You Don’t Nomi,” a documentary from Jeffrey McHale, puts those perspectives into a breezy dialogue bound to irk all sides part of the time. (Somehow, a few commentators here can watch Verhoeven’s merciless sendup of power and enterprise — filled with graceful Steadicam work by Larry McConkey, of the “Goodfellas” Copacabana shot — and find it wanting.) But McHale’s rundown is consistently entertaining.
Limiting his talking heads to voice-over, McHale builds their arguments through clips. “You Don’t Nomi” provides context for the film’s 1995 release, draws connections with Verhoeven’s other movies and obliterates the notion that “Showgirls” lacks formal panache. The voices include critics like Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, who panned the film and regards it as “drearily pedestrian,” and Adam Nayman (with whom I’m friendly, and whose ideas provide a structuring conceit for the documentary). Nayman contends that “Showgirls” has revealed its merit over time, unlike “Forrest Gump” or “American Beauty,” lauded movies that did the reverse.
“You Don’t Nomi” also depicts “Showgirls” as an obsession for fans like Jeffery Conway, who wrote the book “Showgirls: The Movie in Sestinas.” It reserves sympathy for the former “Saved by the Bell” star Elizabeth Berkley, whose domineering performance as Nomi Malone might not have damaged her career if Verhoeven’s exaggerated tone had registered clearly.
If not revelatory, “You Don’t Nomi” is likely to persuade viewers that “Showgirls” is more than a “bare-butted bore,” as Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times 25 years ago.