“There’s always someone younger and hungrier coming down the stairs after you.”
Welcome to Retro Rewind, the TGJ original feature carved out to take our faithful readers on an exciting journey to TV and Film’s glorious past.
Recognise the quote above? That’s because it’s from ‘Showgirls’, the cult classic we’re shining a light on twenty one years after its release.
Where we’re heading for this journey to the past?
A contemporary and unashamedly vulgar take on Mankiewicz‘s ‘All About Eve’, ‘Girls’ tells the tale of a mysterious blonde named Nomi Malone (portrayed by Elizabeth Berkely) who hitchhikes her way to Las Vegas on a quest for superstardom.
Bad luck, and her unscrupulous driver, would see her stranded at a casino where she would meet the girl who would go on to change her life forever, pulling her into the weird, wonderful, dark and dangerous world of Vegas’ entertainment scene.
Danger and drama ensues when Nomi‘s rise sees her trapped in a web in which ambitious yet impoverished young girls are chewed up and spat out by an industry fuelled by drugs, sexual abuse, prostitution…and sabotage.
How it fared when it reached theatres on September 22nd 1995. Terribly, failing to recoup its $45 million budget and, believe it or not, was mocked by one of its actors.
Kyle Machlachlan shared:
I was absolutely gobsmacked. I said, “This is horrible. Horrible!” And it’s a very slow, sinking feeling when you’re watching the movie, and the first scene comes out, and you’re like, “Oh, that’s a really bad scene.” But you say, “Well, that’s okay, the next one’ll be better.” And you somehow try to convince yourself that it’s going to get better… and it just gets worse. And I was like, “Wow. That was crazy.” I mean, I really didn’t see that coming. So at that point, I distanced myself from the movie. Now, of course, it has a whole other life as a sort of inadvertent… satire. No, “satire” isn’t the right word. But it’s inadvertently funny. So it’s found its place. It provides entertainment, though not in the way I think it was originally intended. It was just… maybe the wrong material with the wrong director and the wrong cast.
However, despite all of the above, the movie would go on to exceed expectations in ways none of its stars could have imagined.
For, seemingly enthralled by the very things it had been slammed for, twenty-somethings began to throw ‘Showgirls’ parties in which they’d watch the film in large groups and, according to the journalist Naomi Klein, laugh at its “implausibly poor screenplay and shriek with horror at the aerobic sexual encounters.”
It would be Berkley who would have the last laugh.
For these parties became so popular that the media company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer swept up $100 million from consumers who rented the release turning the theatrical flop into a VHS thriller.
Of course, this did little to turn Berkley into the respected actress she’d hoped to become following her departure from the teen series ‘Saved By the Bell.’
Nor, perhaps most unfortunately, is it remembered for its brutally honest look into a world in which money and misogyny protects men who use their power to prey on and imprison powerless artists.
Berkley had this to say to fans who asked her about her feelings towards the movie recently:
I had the most extraordinary experience making the film. When a dream is happening, it’s unlike anything you can ever imagine. Which is why, when the movie came out, it was more painful than anything you can imagine. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that moment, because why do that? We don’t live in the past. I’m just bringing it up for a point, to tell you that 1995 was such a different time, where taking risks like that were not embraced. They were laughed at. They were shamed publicly. To be a young girl in the center of that was something that was quite difficult. But I found my own resiliency and my power and my confidence – not only through what I had to find out, but because of you guys.
Twenty one years after its launch, there’s still no denying the impact ‘Girls’ made on Pop culture.
From inspiring the likes of Beyonce (see 0.35 mark on the clip above and the 2.56 point in ‘Deja Vu‘) to offering many unforgettable one-liners, there’s no denying that the movie is a classic…for its own reasons.
With the likes of Janet and Paula mirroring Nomi‘s technical skill and style in real life around the same time, one hopes the movie will inspire a new generation of entertainers bold enough to do away the stripped back and basic performance styles delivered by most of today’s newbies, and offer performances just as grand as Berkley‘s.