Review: You Don’t Nomi

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: Filmmaker Jeffrey McHale explores the legacy of the classic cult flick SHOWGIRLS. Critics and artists discuss the merits and the misunderstandings of what many feel is one of the worst movies ever made – yet there are others who have come to love this enjoyably bad flick.

REVIEW: Hollywood loves a spectacle. Whether you're talking big and bold musicals or wit fueled satires, there's a wealth of material out there to recreate a little magic. One such film has the "honor" of winning a ton of Razzies, and both failed embarrassingly at the box office and with critics. Fresh off of the sexy and successful thriller BASIC INSTINCT, Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas teamed up for a Las Vegas fairy tale of sorts. It was bawdy, garish, and explicit, proudly earning an NC-17 for excessive sex and nudity. And it also featured one of the sweethearts of the popular teen series Saved By The Bell. SHOWGIRLS was vilified, maligned, and treated like a joke. And here we are still talking about it all these years later. And in the new documentary, YOU DON'T NOMI, we see how the sleazy, exploitive and weirdly entertaining flick has found itself an impressive cult following.

YOU DON'T NOMI doesn't offer new interviews with the cast and crew. Aside from a few previously released soundbites at special festival screenings and the film's junket, none of the people involved are on hand. However, we do get critics, a stage actress, and a lively group of LGBTQ performers discussing the legendary flick. The goal? Simply to understand why so many have embraced this ultra silly extravaganza loaded with T & A, terrible dialogue, and a lead performance that must be seen to be believed. Some of those interviewed praise this glitzy glam feature, yet others noted its excessively problematic script and misogynistic mayhem.  Not quite a celebration, but more of an appreciation for what is called a "masterpiece of sh*t." Is SHOWGIRLS a misunderstood cult classic? Or is it just a garbage flick that somehow earned cult status? Well perhaps that all depends on you.

You Don't Nomi, Showgirls, Elizabeth Berkley, Jeffrey McHale, Paul Verhoeven, Joe Eszterhas, cult classic, documentary

Upon the film's initial release back in 1995, SHOWGIRLS created quite the buzz with its promise of titillating, full-frontal nudity, and sexy performances. And like many of those who found themselves dumbfounded by the experience, those interviewed discuss their take on this strangely entertaining bit of sleazy goodness. This includes David Schmader who recorded the audio commentary for a special home video release. It also offers a voice to critics Haley Mlotek and Adam Nayman who give slightly different observations on this sexually explicit bit of celluloid. Joshua Grannell brings his wild stage persona to life by openly praising Nomi Malone's Las Vegas journey. And in perhaps the most personal and effective take, actress April Kidwell opens up about how taking on the role that Elizabeth Berkely made infamous became a saving grace after dealing with demons of her own. Her story is especially inspiring and powerful, and she's played Berkley's Nomi, as well as her Saved By The Bell character on stage.

Having directed several fantastic features including ROBOCOP, TOTAL RECALL, STARSHIP TROOPERS, as well as smaller films like THE 4TH MAN, SPETTERS, and TURKISH DELIGHT, the connection between his earlier work and SHOWGIRLS is especially fascinating. While many critics openly attacked his direction, the comparisons to his previous efforts are astounding. Whether they are discussing the use of mirrors or the strange dialogue, the similarities to some of his more critically acclaimed work are obvious. You can certainly see that spark of creativity within this world of Vegas dancers, scumbags, and bare-breasted beauties – perhaps bare-everything is a more appropriate description. As well, the complicated relationship between Verhoeven and Eszterhas is explored. The two found themselves at odds after the film's box office and critical failure. It would've been nice to see what they both have to say about the experience today, but this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

You Don't Nomi, Elizabeth Berkley, Paul Verhoeven, Jeffrey McHale, Joe Eszterhas, Gina Gershon, documentary, cult classic

And then there is Elizabeth Berkley. If you've not seen SHOWGIRLS, you've no idea how much of a miracle this performance is. And not necessarily in a good way. The documentary examines her work in a "controversial" episode of Saved By The Bell where her character 'Jessie Spano' becomes addicted to caffeine pills and how it led to Nomi Malone. Considering this was supposed to be a big break for the actress, she found herself exiled and lampooned with her outrageous portrayal of Nomi. The cheeseburger scene! Doggy chow! Her ridiculous reaction to mundane questions! At one point in NOMI, her performance in SHOWGIRLS is described as an alien trying to pass off as a human being. Having had the pleasure of finally watching the 1995 cult classic very recently, I can say with certainty that it's an astute description. Thankfully, director Jeffrey McHale explores the many reasons why the failure of SHOWGIRLS has arguably very little to do with Berkley – and more to do with the script and direction given. In one of her rare public appearances for the film, she comes across as a woman who grew and was finally able to move on from the harsh criticism she endured.

YOU DON'T NOMI is a sensational look at how SHOWGIRLS became a cult classic. Unlike movies like SHARKNADO or any other flick meant to be terrible, this glitzy Las Vegas story is exceptionally bad in a damn near miraculous way. How can a movie with this kind of star power, an acclaimed and successful director, and the screenwriter of the moment come up with this?  Is it a misunderstood masterpiece? Or is it simply a piece of sh*t? And can it be both? This is a funny, honest, and engaging look behind the curtain at how a feature film can offer sex, nudity, and a little lunacy to create one of the least sexy, and most vilified movies of all time. Yet is there something to it? Even if you aren't a fan of SHOWGIRLS – especially if you aren't – Jeffrey McHale's thoughtfully constructed documentary is a joy to watch. It's honest, engaging, and most importantly, gives you a better understanding of what SHOWGIRLS has become. Besides, sometimes bad movies are the most memorable ones. 




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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.