For years it seemed I ate my breakfast cereal in front of Saved by the Bell. Zack was cool, Kelly was sweet, and Jessie was the nerd: this much I knew. But when the show ended in 1993, long before I ever walked the halls of a high school myself, the young woman who’d played Jessie, Elizabeth Berkley, was anxious to rebrand herself.
Cue Showgirls, the movie where she somehow failed to earn accolades or respect by baring her beaver. In fact, the film positively dies every time she’s on screen. She’s horrible. Horrible. I was literally annoyed by her in less than 2 minutes flat (watch it and see if you can do better!).
Like any self-respecting person, I have avoided this movie for 20 fucking years. 20 years! Now here I am, watching it at work (probably a mistake) when I know better. When the movie came out, it bombed. OF COURSE it bombed. The script (by Joe Eszterhas, writer of Flashdance) failed to inspire. Elizabeth Berkley couldn’t act her way out of a parking ticket. She mistakes acting with tits, ass, and temper tantrums. Seriously – even the ladies of Girl, Interrupted seemed less mentally unstable. Director Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Robocop, Total Recall) is way out of his depth. He has the gall to defend this stinker – and to belatedly attempt to explain it as a satire (if you spot the satire, let me know). When Showgirls swept the Razzie Awards, Paul Verhoeven turned up in personal to collect both Worst Director and Worst Picture. He was the first director to ever do so (Berkley opted not to collect hers).
The studio decided it had better embrace the badness, and tried to rebrand the thing as a “midnight cult flick” much like Rocky Horror Picture Show. It lacks the charm of Rocky Horror but it is unintentionally funny. It’s the movie of the month at Kingston’s The Screening Room and is playing this Sunday July 17th at 7pm. Show up in your best Nomi costume (just try not to get solicited on the way there). It’s also playing in Chicago at Music Box on August 10th and in London at Eagle London on July 20th.
See if you can make it through more of the movie than its co-star Kyle MacLachlan can – he’s said to have walked out of the premiere but he denies it, insisting “I sat thee and suffered for the whole two hours.” Steven Spielberg also gave up on the movie halfway through, saying “Sometimes, I hate this town.” It does have a fan in Quentin Tarantino though – he calls it “the Mandingo of the ’90s.”
So what do you think? Pamela Anderson, Angelina Jolie, Denise Richards and Charlize Theron all auditioned for the part – think they dodged a bullet? Elizabeth Berkley’s career certainly never recovered.