A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this film was adults-only for a reason. As Showgirls gradually enters into the nudie-show environment, topless dancing and sex (often in combo, a la prostitution) become frequent and stop just short of hardcore pornography. Violence includes a brutal gang rape of a sympathetic female character and a man is also beaten viciously. Practically every nasty word there is comes out at one point or another. Characters are stereotyped. A "milder" R-rated cut is available, but this is a review of the more widely available NC-17 movie.
What's the story?
Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley), a young, attractive, and assertive drifter covering up her troubled past, hitchhikes to Las Vegas only to be robbed of her meager possessions. Nomi finds sanctuary sharing a trailer with Molly (Gina Ravera), a kind-hearted costumer who works on "Goddess," an erotic-topless musical revue in one of the biggest gambling casinos. Nomi dreams of dancing in a show like that, but meanwhile earns money as a stripper and lapdancer at a raunchy night club called Cheetah's. Crystal (Gina Gershon), the haughty star showgirl who headlines in "Goddess" finds out about Nomi and loses no opportunity to try and humiliate the hopeful newcomer, as Nomi rises through the ranks of topless-showgirl-dom and is drawn into an affair with Crystal's steady boyfriend (Kyle MacLachlan), a powerful casino executive.
Is it any good?
Between stripper-hookers, promoter-pimps, hateful choreographers, and creepy gay chorus boys, there's nobody to root for -- but everybody worked hard on the dancing, obviously. Critics were near-universal in their hatred -- a merciful Roger Ebert judged Showgirls bad but never boring, and some call it a "cult" film. It still failed to bring real usefulness to the NC-17 rating other than to make everyone take notice of a movie best forgotten. And quickly.
Notorious even before premiering, SHOWGIRLS tested the MPAA NC-17 rating for adults-only material. NC-17 got stamped on arty/indie film before; this was the first time a mainstream NC-17 blockbuster went wide with an ad blitz. Alas, the same "edgy" guys who made Basic Instinct went to extremes of bad taste with this flagrantly borderline-porno; a stew of stripper-stardom, drugs, ghastly boyfriends, betrayal, and bare booties/breasts. It pretends to be a moral story of an indominatable girl resisting 100 percent degredation and exploitation -- but hey, this is about topless Vegas dancers (she bails at about 99.05234 percent degredation).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the choices Nomi and the other characters make. What (if anything) ennobles Nomi as more heroic than the other showgirls?
Themes of backstabbing women in the same profession are handled much better in the classic All About Eve. Which movie seems more realistic?
Why do you think this movie is NC-17? Did it dissuade viewers from seeing it? Find out more about ratings controveries in the mature documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated.
- In theaters: September 22, 1995
- On DVD or streaming: July 17, 2007
- Cast: Elizabeth Berkley, Gina Gershon, Kyle MacLachlan
- Director: Paul Verhoeven
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 131 minutes
- MPAA rating: NC-17
- MPAA explanation: nudity and erotic sexuality throughout, and for some graphic language and sexual violence.
For kids who love dancing
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.